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Archive for the ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ Category

Stonestreet – 2009 Rockfall Cabernet Sauvignin

Posted by Gabe on April 16, 2014

Do you love cabernet sauvignon? If you answered affirmatively, I certainly hope one of the places you’re drinking it from is Alexander Valley California. Cabernet happens to be one of the grapes that thrive in a lot of places around the world. Excellent cabernet abounds from the old and the new world. In California a lot of attention is paid to Napa Valley cabs, and rightly so, there are a ton of excellent examples there. However a couple of parts of Sonoma County have the ability to grow cabernet every bit as prodigious as the best cabernet sauvignons that Napa offers and Alexander Valley leads that list. Here’s a wine from Stonestreet that is simply stunning. Read the rest over at The Daily Meal

Posted in Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon | Leave a Comment »

Trione Vineyards & Winery – 2009 Russian River Valley Syrah / 2009 Alexander Valley Red Wine / 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon “Block 21”

Posted by Gabe on April 5, 2014

One of my favorite things about covering wine is the opportunity to hang out with winemakers. It’s a lot of fun and also a relief when there’s someone in the room who’s more of a geek about fermented grape juice than I am. The last few years I’ve been really impressed with the offerings being put out by Trione Vineyards & Winery. And while I’ve loved the wines, it was only recently that I visited their tasting room and met their winemaker Scot Covington. I spent most of an afternoon with him and we tasted wines in barrel, tank and of course out of bottle. Trione has vineyards in Alexander Valley and the Russian River; hundreds of acres in fact. Most of the grapes are sold; Scot gets to make wine with the best of the best that their property offers. It’s clear that he loves what he does and the opportunity to select fruit from such a large playground is an inspiration to him.  I tasted lots of wine with Scot and I eagerly anticipate re-tasting some of the offerings that aren’t even in bottle yes once they’re released, there’s a ton of promise and upside there. For the moment though here’s a look at three current Trione Wines you can get your hands on.

Trione 2009 Russian River Valley Syrah – The fruit for this wine came from a single block in Russian River Valley that’s planted to clone 470 and 877. The methodology Scot used to make this Syrah is similar to the one he employs with Pinot Noir. 809 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $32. Black and red plum aromas fill the heady nose of this Syrah. Dried black fruit flavors are in strong evidence throughout the palate; blackberry and blueberry characteristics are joined by plum pudding spices.  Bits of espresso and smoked meat emerge on the lengthy finish. Firm gripping tannins yield with some air. This Syrah is two-faced in nature, the fruit says new world, the style and methodology say old world. Bottom line, it makes for a delicious and food friendly wine.

Trione 2009 Alexander Valley Red Wine – This wine is a blend of all 5 classic Bordeaux grapes. The majority is Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), with Merlot (12%), Petit Verdot 7%), Cabernet Franc (6%), and Malbec (6%) making contributions too. The wine was aged in French oak for 18 months; 45% of the barrels utilized were new. 2,292 6 bottle cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $48. Sweet, dark berry fruit aromas fill the nose of this Red blend. Plum and blueberry flavors dominate the palate which brings to mind a bowl of fresh berry fruits. Black fruit flavors lead the charge, but bits of red slip in and out making their presence known. Tobacco, leather and chocolate notes are all in evidence on the finish which has solid length. Tannins are firm and gripping, they yield with some air. Along those lines, if you’re going to drink this now, decant it for an hour or so, otherwise lay it down for 5 or 6 years and enjoy it in the 5 or so years after that.

Trione 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon “Block 21” – The single block this Cabernet was sourced from is planted to clone 337. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), bits of merlot (9%), Cabernet Franc (2%), Malbec (2%), and Petit Verdot (2%) were also blended in. Each lot was barrel aged separately for 12 months and then blended, an additional 12 months in barrel followed blending. French oak barrels were uses, 45% of them were new. 981 6 packs were bottled and this wine has a suggested retail price of $64. A potpourri of spice leads the nose of this Cabernet. They’re joined by violets and blueberry aromas. Plum, black raspberry and blackberry flavors are present on the full-bodied but easy-going palate. The finish shows off chocolate covered blueberry and a wisp of chicory. This is an exceptionally smooth and engaging Cabernet Sauvignon that’s as easy to drink all by itself as it is to pair with a wide array of food. Alexander Valley is one of the best areas in California for growing excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. This offering from Trione proves how good Cabernet from Alexander Valley can be. It’s wonderful now, but don’t hesitate to lay it down for 8-12 years.

Trione Vineyards & Winery is releasing some terrific wines that speak to their origins in two distinct Sonoma County Appellations. Winemaker Scot Covington is pushing the envelope one vintage after another. He does this not only by enhancing the portfolio with occasional new releases but more importantly by constantly tinkering and striving to make the best wines he can with the bounty that Trione’s Vineyards offer. If you’re in Alexander Valley, stop off at their tasting room and sample the wonderful Sonoma County Wines they’re offering. And if you’re not going to be in Sonoma County soon, go to your favorite local wine shop and look for some Trione wines; I guarantee a delicious experience.

Posted in Alexander Valley, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Russian River Valley, Syrah/Shiraz | Leave a Comment »

Rodney Strong Vineyards – 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir / 2010 Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on March 18, 2014

2010 RockawayThe folks over at Rodney Strong Vineyards offer a wide portfolio of Sonoma County wines. Their offerings range from wines made with fruit sourced throughout the county, all the way to single vineyard efforts tightly focused on specific parcels of land. One of the things which remain consistent throughout is their ability to offer value at each price point they sell wine. This has stayed true through the many years I’ve been drinking their wine. Here’s a look at two current releases that offer a little window into some of the terrific things they’re doing.

The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was made entirely from fruit sourced in the namesake appellation. Harvesting from different sites took place over a couple of weeks as each achieved maturity. Barrel aging was accomplished over 10 months in entirely French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $25. Wild strawberry, red violets and Madagascar Vanilla bean aromas light up the nose of this 2012 Pinot Noir. The flavors remind me of a bowl of fresh red fruits; continued strawberry is joined by red cherry and bits of rhubarb on a friendly and even keeled palate. Spices such as cinnamon and clove emerge on the finish along with final flourishes of fruit such as pomegranate, strawberry and raspberry. Black tea and mineral characteristics are present as well. This wine is a standard bearer in under $30 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. One vintage after another you can count on it to showcase varietal character and locale, with style.

The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2010 Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon is a single vineyard effort. Rockaway Vineyards sits at an elevation of 750 feet. It was planted in 1994 and features the five predominant Bordeaux varietals. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (88%), this wine has some Malbec (7%), and Petit Verdot (5%) blended in. Barrel aging took place over 20 months in entirely French Oak; 57% of the barrels utilized were new. This Cabernet has a suggested retail price of $75. This Cabernet has a deeply brooding nose that’s just brimming with dense and heady dark fruit aromas. The palate is stacked with layer after layer of fruit; blackberry, plum and black raspberry are all in evidence. Plum pudding spices and chocolate sauce characteristics are present as well. The Rockaway Cabernet has a long, lush finish that shows off black cherry, raspberry, espresso and mineral notes. Firm, chewy tannins yield with some air. This wine is delicious now, particularly after an hour or so in the decanter, however it’ll evolve nicely over the next 5 years and drink well for several after that. This is a fine expression of Alexander Valley Cabernet.

It’s no secret that I really like what they do at Rodney Strong Vineyards. The reasons are many and most of those relate very specifically to what comes pouring out of the bottles. But it also involves the fact that they do the things they do at a relatively large scale. Every time I twist off a cap or pull the cork from a bottle of wine with their name on it, I’m certain I’m going to get a delicious, fairly priced wine. Hats off to the Rodney Strong team for reinforcing that confidence with each and every successive bottle. Not to mention for making sure that even folks in the furthest reaches of the country can easily find wine from a dependable, reasonably priced producer who makes a quality product that speaks to its region of origin. So take my advice, drink their wines, your taste buds will thank you.

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

Concha y Toro – 2008 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on January 10, 2014

Puente Alto Vineyard

There are moments in history that set a standard and change the game. For the Chilean Wine Industry the launch of Don Melchor was that sea change moment. This super premium Cabernet Sauvignon that can compete with the big boys from any region of the world served notice to wine lovers when it arrived in 1987. That message indicated with clarity that Chile makes a wide range of wines, not only in the value category but in the premium and luxury categories. Since its inaugural vintage Don Melchor has consistently been among the best Cabs in the world. Chile continues to surprise and impress with a breadth of diverse offerings that expands our understanding of the great things they can do there. Don Melchor stays the course and continues to wow. Here’s a look at the 2008 vintage of this wine.

The Concha y Toro 2008 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced at the Puente Alto Vineyard which is located in the Upper Maipo region of Chile. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (97%), there is also some Cabernet Franc (3%) blended in. The fruit was harvested by hand. After fermentation the wine spent 15 months aging in French oak. Don Melchor has a suggested retail price of $95. Cherry, leather and cigar box aromas fill the sexy nose of this 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate is deeply layered and proportionately intense with cherry, earth and bits of chocolate filling its core. Black pepper spice, minerals and espresso are all present on the finish which is impressively long and persistent. The tannins here are firm but yield with some air. This wine is delicious now but will age gracefully over the next 12-14 years. If you’re going to drink it now, a couple hours in the decanter is recommended.

If you love Cabernet Sauvignon and have yet to experience Don Melchor, it should be on your short list of wines to try. It’s not only one of the best wines from Chile year after year it’s also a benchmark example of Cabernet Sauvignon. Whether you drink it now or lay it down, the 2008 vintage is a fine example of an iconic wine.

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Gabe’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Posted by Gabe on December 17, 2013

Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re like most Americans you still have plenty of shopping to do. Most of us have Wine & Spirits lovers on our list. So here are some killer Wine & Spirits selections in a variety of price points to make those on your list happy and keep them warm. And if by some chance all your shopping is done pick some of these up for your Holiday table, your taste buds will thank you!

Wines:

Agricole Vallone – 2007 Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Riserva. This Italian wine was made from Negroamaro (80%) and Montepulciano (20%). The fruit for this wine was sourced on the winery’s own estate. Aging started in stainless steel tanks followed by large Slavonian oak casks for about 7 months. 12 months in concrete tanks followed and finally 6 months in bottle prior to release. 1,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99. Red plum and strawberry aromas fill the nose of this wine along with pepper spice. The palate has warming red fruit flavors such as cherry and red raspberry as well as continued plum. A hint of cinnamon, cardamom and pepper are all part of the above average finish along with a bit of espresso. Firm acidity and gentle tannins provide nice structure. This wine screams out to be paired with a nice meal. Thankfully it’ll work with a wide array of foods such as classic roast chicken, pot roast, pasta with red sauce, a cheese and charcuterie plate or more. At under $20 this wine is an outstanding value. It’s priced for everyday drinking but tastes like a special occasion wine.

Dry Creek Vineyard – 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel. This wine was made using fruit sourced in Dry Creek Valley. In addition to Zinfandel (83%), there is some Petite Sirah (17%) blended in. The fruit comes from vines that are between 90 and 110 years old. Fermentation took place over 22 days in a temperature controlled environment. Barrel aging followed over the next 20 months in a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak. 28% of the barrels utilized were new. Just more than 3,200 cases were produced and this Zin has a suggested retail price of $30. The Petite Sirah in this wine makes its presence known from the first whiff where black plum and violet aromas are in evidence along with raspberry and a bit of vanilla. The palate is a horn-o-plenty of fresh berry fruit flavors. They’re abundant, succulent and incredibly varied. A core of spices is present as well and it dances merrily alongside all the fruit. Bits of blackberry and pepper emerge on the finish as well as a touch of rhubarb. This is a proportionate Zinfandel that is loaded with fruit without ever straying over the top, or even close to it. Fleshy fruits, medium tannins and a fine backbone of acidity all come together to make a fresh and desirable wine that will pair well with food. Year after year this wine is one of the best values in Zinfandel. It also happens to be continually made in the style that encourages pairing it with food. It will also drink well longer than the average Zin. It’s outstanding now but don’t hesitate to hold on to it over the next 7 or 8 years. Under proper storage conditions it’ll flourish. If you want to buy someone the most American of wines you aren’t going to do much better than this benchmark example of Zinfandel which comes from Dry Creek Valley, the effective home office of the varietal.

Swanson Vineyards – 2010 Oakville Merlot. This wine blends together Merlot (83%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), and Petit Verdot (2%). After Fermentation this wine was aged in an even split of French and American oak for 18 months. 33% of the barrels utilized were new. The Swanson Merlot is widely available nationwide and has a suggested retail price of $38. Black fruit aromas are joined by interspersing bits of red fruit on the nose of this Merlot. Cherry flavors dominate the palate with raspberry and plum playing a role here as well. The finish is substantial and memorable with loads of spice, chicory, and a hint of bittersweet chocolate. It shows off firm tannins and rock solid acidity. This wine is delicious now, particularly after being decanted for about an hour but will benefit from a couple of years of bottle age under proper conditions. I’ve been drinking the Swanson Merlots for over a decade now and I believe they really improve over the first 5 or 6 years in the bottle and drink well for another 6 or so after that. It’s always been a Cabernet lover’s Merlot with depth structure and the ability to age. This is as far away from stereotypical insipid Merlot as you’re going to get. Year after year the Swanson Merlot represents one of the best wines values in Napa Valley. If you want to drink killer Napa Merlot, or gift it to your friends, this is the one.

Rodney Strong – 2010 Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit for this wine comes exclusively from the Brothers Ridge Vineyard which sits in the northern half of Alexander Valley near Cloverdale. This single vineyard wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from 4 select blocks. After fermentation this wine spent 21 months in French oak; 43% of the barrels were new. This small production wine has a suggested retail price of $75. Blueberry, black raspberry and green peppercorn aromas emerge from the nose of this Cabernet. The palate is loaded with ripe and ready fruit flavors such as blackberry and raspberry. Bits of vanilla bean are present as well. Espresso, earth, chocolate and wisps of minerals are present on the substantial finish. Firm, gripping tannins and solid acidity mark this Cabernet’s structure. It’s been about had a dozen years that Rodney Strong has been making a trio of super premium single vineyard Cabernets. These wines upped their game into a space that they didn’t previously inhibit with the rest of their portfolio. At $75 this wine is a very good value. Alexander Valley is a region with excellent Cabernet potential, which the folks at Rodney Strong fulfill with this wine. Since not as many consumers realize how awesome Alexander Valley Cab can be you can be the beneficiary. A Cabernet of the same quality from Napa would likely cost closer to $125. So if your gift giving list includes a Napa Cab lover, buy them this wine and you’ll be giving them two gifts, the wine itself and the eye opener into Alexander Valley Cabs. They will thank you profusely.

Spirits:

Auchentoshan – Classic Single Malt Scotch. This Scotch was triple distilled, which is their house methodology and aged entirely in Bourbon Casks. This offering is the entry level selection in the Auchentoshan portfolio and it has a suggested retail price of $30. There are hints of charred wood on the nose. Peach, apricot, Granny Smith Apple and spice are prevalent on the palate which is mid-range in terms of overall weight in the mouth. Continued spices are in evidence on the finish along with lemon zest and a gentle salinity. At less than $30 if you shop around this is an excellent value in Scotch. It’s an easy going Whisky which calls you back to the glass for sip after sip. Perfectly suited, style and price wise for everyday drinking. That said it has more than enough complexity to keep you interested.

Laphroaig – Triple Wood Scotch. This Scotch was created using a triple maturation process. It was aged in ex-bourbon barrels, quarter casks and Oloroso Sherry Casks. This is a seasonal expression available in limited quantities that won’t be on the shelf too long. It’s available in select shops around the United States and has a suggested retail price of $59.99. This Scotch has a beautiful light copper hue that stands out when poured. Aromas of toasted macadamia nut, Lychee fruit and apricot are all present in the effusive nose. The palate here is loaded with fruitcake spices, dried yellow peach and interspersed bits of char. Oatmeal characteristics lead the finish which also shows off a lovely bit of brine that interlocks with caramel and molasses. This is a gorgeous Scotch that shows off the trademark peat that Laphroaig is known for in a gentle and even handed manner. Other expressions in their portfolio lean heavier on the peat. So if you like a dollop of it but don’t want to go all in on Smoky and Peaty Scotch yet, this could be the Laphroaig for you. It’s a distinct expression in their range that is well worth exploring or gifting.

The Irishman – 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky. The Irishman was founded in 1999 by the Walsh family. Their family has been involved in Whisky production for well over 100 years. This Whisky was aged over 12 years in entirely first time used Bourbon barrels. This Whisky is non chill filtered and limited to only 6,000 numbered bottles per year. It has suggested retail price of $65. The toasty char from the Bourbon casks is prominent on the nose along with some spices such as cardamom and cinnamon, as well as a gentle wisp of allspice. Apple, rye , and oat characteristics are in strong evidence throughout the robust and full flavored palate which has bracing depth and complexity. The toasty notes circle back in on the finish along with a bit of dusty dark chocolate and continuing reverberations of spice. This is a beautiful Irish Whisky with  lovely and notable complexity.

Gosling’s Family Reserve – Old Rum. This rum is aged for an extended period in barrels. Every bottle is hand numbered and wax sealed. Unlike several of their other releases which are made in large quantities, the Old Rum is made in limited amounts. It sells at select shops for around $80. The hue of this rum is dark and it is opaque. Bits of cinnamon and anise emerge from the deep, dark nose of this rum. From the very first sip a cornucopia of flavors emerge. Plum pudding spices, molasses and hints of mesquite honey are all in evidence. As you sip it, layer after layer of gorgeous flavors emerge and envelop your senses. Bits of burnt sugar and chocolate sauce are part of the finish which has tremendous depth, length and persistence. It’s thick, dense and meant to be contemplated. Gosling’s Old Rum is a gorgeous offering that should be savored. If you want to make a rum cocktail, pull something else off the shelf, this one is meant to be enjoyed straight. If you have a Rum lover on your gift list this one will knock them out. The Rum itself is certainly enough, but it’s also beautifully packaged and comes in a wooden box with a sliding cover, making it a lovely presentation as well.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Irish Whiskey, Merlot, Nero d'Avola, Petite Sirah, Rum, Single Malt Scotch, Whiskey, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Visiting Black Stallion Winery on Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail

Posted by Gabe on December 13, 2013

Black Stallion Winery is a Napa Valley producer located at the Southern end of the Silverado Trail. Relatively speaking they’re a pretty new operation, having opened their doors on site in 2007. I was just out in Napa Valley and since I had liked a couple of their widely distributed wines which I’d had recently I thought I should visit and see what they were up to.

One of the first things you’ll learn if you visit Black Stallion is that their portfolio is far wider than the wines they have in distribution. In terms of releases, most of their offerings are aimed at their wine club and people who take the time to stop by their tasting room for a sample. There are a couple of different options when you do visit; these range in price from $15 to $30. The choices include things like a tour and tasting, Reds only tasting, private tasting, Wine & Pizza pairing and more. Basically they have something that will fit most people’s mood, desire, and budget.

The property Black Stallion sits on as well as some of the structures was previously an Equestrian center, the longest lasting one in California actually. I toured the facility while I was there and it’s an interesting an appealing property to check out. Right outside the building are rows of different grapes that are used as a learning vineyard. Many different varieties of grapes are featured, each with their own row. showing them side by side makes it easy for staff to teach interested visitors how to spot the differences between say a Chardonnay leaf and a Cabernet leaf. Walking through the production area it’s easy and fascinating to see where the doors to horse stalls once were. I enjoyed a nice, crisp and refreshing Rosé while I was walking around and then eventually sat down in a welcoming and comfortable room for a private tasting. Here are my thoughts on a handful of my favorite wines from the visit.

Black Stallion Estate Winery 2012 Chardonnay – This wine which is 100% Chardonnay is one of the two releases they currently have in nationwide distribution. It was aged over 10 months in entirely French oak; 30% of the barrels utilized were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $22. Granny Smith apple aromas fill the nose of this Chardonnay. Taking the first sip the apple characteristics continue along joined by Anjou pear, baker’s spices and a bit of citrus zest. The finish is long and spicy with a hint of pie crust bringing things to a close. This wine is a solid value in readily available Napa Chardonnays.

Black Stallion 2011 Monte Rosso Zinfandel – 100% of the fruit for this wine comes from the esteemed vineyard of the same name. This offering is entirely Zinfandel. It was aged in French oak over 15 months. 46% of the barrels were new and the rest a combination of once and twice used. This wine sells for $45 through the winery. Right from the brambly nose it’s apparent that this is a classic example of Monte Rosso Zin. A potpourri of berry fruits fills the engaging palate with mouth pleasing flavors. Blackberry and raspberry flavors continue through the finish and are joined by black pepper and the essence of vanilla bean. This is a proportionate and even keeled Zin. Stylistically it owes much more to the classic old school Zin of past generations than it does the flashier, rocket fuel style Zins that are in fashion these days. This is simply an awesome Zinfandel and with less than 400 cases made it probably won’t last long, so grab it.

Black Stallion 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is composed of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. All of the fruit is from Napa Valley. Barrel aging took place over 22 months in entirely French oak. It sells through the winery for $75. This Cabernet has a huge and boisterous nose loaded with dark fruit character. Black Cherry flavors dominate the palate. Blackberry and boysenberry flavors emerge on the finish along with a fine helping of chicory and dusty cocoa. This Cabernet has excellent length, chewy tannins and firm acid. It’s delicious today but will improve over the next 5-7 years and age gracefully for a handful after that. If you like classic Napa Cabernet that’s fruity but not over ripe, not to mention proportionate and food friendly, this is a wine for you.

Black Stallion 2009 Bucephalus Red – This proprietary blend varies in varietal composition from vintage to vintage. The 2009 was made from Cabernet Sauvignon (92%), Merlot (7%), and Syrah (1%). Barrel aging took place over 24 months in entirely French oak. It sells for $175 through the winery. Plum and black cherry aromas leap from the nose of this blend. The palate is rich and lush with depth, complexity and flavor to spare. Big, ripe, red and black cherry flavors are joined by a copious amount of spice. The finish is long and lusty with hints of kirsch liqueur and sweet chocolate sauce making an appearance. This wine has medium tannins that recede with some air. It’s a big, bold wine but it’s also quite approachable. I had a chance to sample the 2007 vintage as well and it had aged nicely. While the varietal composition varied the general intent of style was similar and speaks to the wine’s ability to age well in the mid term. There is even a dedicated Bucephalus tasting option available on weekends (or by prior reservation). One of their lounges off the main tasting room is used for this and for $30 you get the chance to taste four vintages of Bucephalus, which even has its own dedicated club you can join to guarantee an allocation.

This is a small sampling of the wines Black Stallion is making; they have quite a few others in their portfolio. One upcoming addition is a Pinot Noir which is going to be distributed alongside the Chardonnay & Cabernet Sauvignon. Next time you’re in Napa Valley I highly encourage you to visit Black Stallion Winery and pick the tasting option that suits you best. It’ll give you the opportunity to taste some authentic Napa Valley wines that you won’t be able to get elsewhere in a beautiful and welcoming facility.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Wine, Winery Visit, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Flora Springs – 2011 Napa Valley Merlot / 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on October 24, 2013

Flora Springs Winery was founded in Napa Valley in 1978. Over their 35 years as a winery they have remained a family owned and run operation. They have more than 650 acres of vineyards which are organically farmed. 90% of the fruit for their wines comes from those vineyards; the balance is sourced from others. Here’s a look at two current releases which are part of their Napa Valley tier of offerings.

prod_image1_732 The Flora Springs 2011 Napa Valley Merlot was produced using fruit sourced at two vineyards in Rutherford; The Komes Ranch and Bella Oaks. This offering is 100% Merlot. Barrel aging took place over 16 months in a combination of French and American oak. 4,500 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $25. Violets as well as red and back cherry aromas are prevalent on the nose of this 2011 Merlot. Cherry characteristics continue through the palate where they are prominently on display, carrying the day. Elements of tobacco and leather are present as well. Bits of sweet chocolate in addition to mineral notes emerge on the finish which has good length. A final flourish of sweet cherry fruit makes its presence known too. The tannins here are soft and appealing with a sufficient amount of structure. This is a varietally correct Merlot which is loaded with character and fruit. It’s delicious today and will drink well for the next 4-6 years.

The Flora Springs 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced within three Napa Valley appellations; Oakville, Rutherford and Saint Helena. Barrel aging took place over 22 months in a combination of French (60%) and American (40%) oak. 5,500 cases of this Cabernet Sauvignon were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $40. Deep, dark fruit aromas emerge from the nose of this Nape Valley Cabernet. A bit of pleasing green herb and black cherry flavors are apparent through the deep and layered palate. Bramble, black tea and a hint of blackberry are all present as well. Chocolate covered cherry characteristics lead the finish along with chicory and black pepper. This quintessential Napa Cabernet is lush and generous with medium tannins and a lengthy finish. It’s drinks well today, particularly after an hour or so of air. However it will improve over the next couple of years and drink well for the next 8 or 9.

Each of these wines is a solid example of the respective varietal and how it prospers in Napa Valley. They each offer tons of character and terrific value for their price points. Merlot that looks, smells and tastes like Merlot isn’t as easy as it should be to come by. This example from Flora Springs gets the job done, at a good price to boot. When it comes to Cabernet in Napa you can spend just about any dollar figure you want. At a retail of $40 this one over delivers. Flora Springs continues to make real Napa Valley wines from organically grown fruit in the heart of the valley, check them out; your taste buds will thank you.

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

Tasting the Wines of Australia’s Moss Wood

Posted by Gabe on October 10, 2013

Recently I had the opportunity to taste through the wines of Moss Wood. They’re an Australian producer with a history dating to 1969. Their current winemaker Keith Mugford has been making the wines since 1979. Since 1984 Keith and his wife Clare have run the entire operation at Moss Wood. In their time at the helm they have made thoughtful advances such as being up to 75% in screw cap as far back as 2003. They’re located in Wilyabrup which is a sub-section of the Margret River region.

We started the evening by tasting a trio wines from four varietal verticals. Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon dating as far back as 1990 were the varietals and each was represented by an example from each of the last 3 decades.

Moss Wood 1993 Semillon – This 20 year old Semillon has an obviously darker hue than the others which is natural for a white of this age. Bits of citrus appear on the nose along with a touch of toffee. Plenty of secondary characteristics emerge on the palate to go along with apple and a boatload of baker’s spice. This wine is still vibrant and alive. It’s a lovely and truly gorgeous example of aged Semillon.

Moss Wood 2003 Semillon – A gentle hint of Petrol emerges on the nose of this decade old Semillon. The palate is filled with a bevy of citrus notes. The finish here is long and fleshy with minerals, spice and pineapple characteristics all in abundance. This wine is delicious and giving but it will continue to evolve positively with more time.

Moss Wood 2013 Semillon – This is the current vintage and it has a suggested retail price of $42. Meyer lemon and lime notes light up the nose of this Semillon. Additional fruits such as white fig are part of the gently layered palate. The finish has good persistence and things end with bits of crispy acidity. Compared to the older vintages this wine is a bit reticent now. Time will open it up and allow it to more fully express its charms.

Moss Wood 1991 Chardonnay – This 22 year old Chardonnay showcases a cavalcade of pure and expressive fruits. There is depth and complexity here to spare. Apple and pear flavors are joined by bits of hazelnut and toast. A bit of butter crème emerges on the finish which has excellent length and persistence. This is a gorgeous wine that exemplifies how fantastic Chardonnay can be when it’s treated appropriately all the way from vineyard to bottle.

Moss Wood 2003 Chardonnay – This Chardonnay has the darkest hue of the trio. The nose shows a bit of candied apple. The finish is fairly long with zippy acidity, minerals and a wisp of crème fraiche. Not quite as fresh or vibrant as either the 1991 or the 2011 but no less interesting.

Moss Wood 2011 Chardonnay – The current vintage, it has a suggested retail price of $63. Lemon custard and orchard fruits mark the deep and layered palate of this wine. Spices galore are present from the first whiff of the nose through the last, lingering note on the finish. This wine is loaded with gorgeous layers of fruit. It’s delicious now but will be even lovelier with time in the bottle. This release will likely get to a similar spot down the road that the 1991 is at today.

Moss Wood 1994 Pinot Noir – Plum aromas emerge from the still vibrant nose of this Pinot Noir along with mushroom and lot’s of secondary characteristics. Sour cherry notes dominate the palate and lead to a lengthy spice filled finish that also shows off black tea and hints of earth. This is a balanced and exquisite example of well aged Pinot Noir.

Moss Wood 2001 Pinot Noir – Red fruit, leather and a hint of smoked meat fills the expressive nose of this 12 year old Pinot Noir. Lots of cherry and strawberry star on te palate here along with hints of earth and mushroom. Minerals and sour red fruits emerge on the finish which has good persistence. Medium tannins that show a pleasing amount of grip and firm acidity speak to the wonderful structure this wine has. It’s delicious now, but certainly has quite a few years of aging ahead of it.

Moss Wood 2010 Pinot Noir – This is the current release, it has a suggested retail price of $62. Red and black cherry character dominates the nose of this Pinot. Red fruits interspersed with black, are key components throughout the palate, along with a well rounded complement of spices. All of these elements continue through the finish which has nice length. This Pinot is still young and a bit tight right now. It needs some time and a few years in bottle will serve it well. That said a few hours in the decanter are highly recommended if drinking it in the next couple of years.

Moss Wood 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon – The fruit on this 23 year old Cabernet has receded and the secondary characteristics have really taken hold. Earth, minerals, espresso and a potpourri of spices are the dominant players here. Chocolate and leather emerge on the finish with some lingering remnants of cherry. If you like your Cabernet Sauvignon aged (and I do), this happens to be an excellent example. It’s beautifully perfumed, loaded with minerals and spice, easy drinking and layered. This is the kind of wine I could hide in the corner with, allowing it to keep me content all night long.

Moss Wood 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is all about cherry characteristics. A combination of red and black cherry flavors dominates the nose and palate. Spice elements join in and continue through the finish where cherry flavors continue to ring out loud and clear. Bits of rhubarb and chicory are present as well. The tannins still have some bite and the acidity keeps things beautifully balanced. This is a fine Cabernet Sauvignon.

Moss Wood 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – The current release, it has a suggested retail price of $105. Red and black raspberries emerge on the welcoming nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Blackberry, cherry and spice are all prominent through the layered palate which shows lots of depth. Blueberry, spices and espresso notes dot the finish which has good length. The tannins here are firm but give with some air. This is a young but approachable Cabernet Sauvignon that will improve greatly with several more years of age. It’s a promising wine that will only become better.

After the vertical tasting we moved on to sample a handful of their other releases alongside our dinner at CraftBar. Three of them were blends and they were lovely wines well suited to our meal. But for me the knockout amongst this quartet was the final wine which was paired with dessert.

Moss Wood Ribbonvale Botrytis 2011 Semillon – This wine was slowly fermented and then racked to barrel. It was bottled in January of this year. It’s available in both 375ml ($38), and 750ml ($70) bottles. Mission fig aromas are part of the nose on this lovely dessert wine. The palate is sweet but not overly so with a variety of fruit and spice flavors coming to the forefront. Fruitcake spices emerge on the honeyed finish which has great length and nice acidity. This wine works equally well paired with other sweets or a cheese course.

Tasting these wines in such a setting allowed us to see their aging potential as well as take a look at what the level of consistency is. While there was certainly vintage variation and some stylistic differences as they have made some adjustments in treatment over the years, each varietal had connective tissues within their subset that allowed us to see how they related to each other. The key here is that these wines were all made in a style that allowed their origin in the Margaret River to be showcased along with the vagaries of what each vintage brings. These are not manipulated products but vineyard driven wines that are allowed to shine. Each varietal is shepherded into bottle in a manner that makes long term aging not only possible but interesting and exciting. The Moss Wood wines taken as a whole were quite impressive. They’re fine examples of their place, their respective grapes and their particular  vintages. If it’s been awhile since you’ve had top shelf Australian wine, the offerings from Moss Wood are a perfect spot to leap back in.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Dessert Wines, Pinot Noir, Sémillon, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Achaval-Ferrer – 2010 Quimera

Posted by Gabe on July 9, 2013

Many wine making regions produce Bordeaux inspired blends and the results vary greatly. In my mind the downfall often comes when trying to mimic the great wines of Bordeaux to the point of not focusing on what does best in the region in question. Argentina of course is best known for Malbec which thrives there in a variety of styles. The latest release from Bodega Achaval-Ferrer is a Bordeaux inspired blend and it’s also a wine with a relatively large percentage of Malbec in it. So here’s a release where Bordeaux inspiration and local rock-star grape meet. Here are my thoughts on the results.

The Achaval-Ferrer 2010 Quimera was produced from fruit sourced in three appellations: Lujan de Cuyo, Medrano, and Tupungato. This offering is a blend of Malbec (31%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%), Cabernet Franc (18%) and Petit Verdot (4%). Each varietal underwent primary fermentation separately in small tanks; Malolactic fermentation followed after the wine was blended. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in entirely French oak; 40% of the barrels utilized were new and the balance had been used once prior. Just more than 3,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $56.

Ripe, red and black fruit aromas fill the heady nose of this 2010 blend from Argentina. The palate is studded with tons of fresh and exuberant fruit flavors; plum, blueberry and blackberry are of particular note. There is depth to spare here, all of the ripe and ready fruit flavors are joined by a notable spice component. The finish is velvety and lingering with pepper, bits of chicory and a dusting of sweet dark chocolate to close things out. The tannins are smooth and lush, pulling you in for sip after mouthwatering sip. There is a load of engaging and eager fruit here that is ready to please now, but there is also structure in place that will allow the 2010 Quimera to age well for a dozen years or more under proper storage conditions.

The goal of great blended wine is to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. The 2010 Quimera is a seamless mélange of varietals that comes together deliciously to achieve that very goal. And yes while this wine draws some inspiration from Bordeaux it gains as much from the fact that it focuses on what does well in Argentina both in terms of specific grapes and stylistically. This is a wonderful wine that should be on the short list of anyone who loves excellent red blends.

Posted in Blends, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Dinner With Vina Koyle Winemaker Cristobal Undurraga

Posted by Gabe on July 8, 2013

Chile is a country whose wines have been of interest to me for a long time. It’s an interest that has grown over time as the wines have increased in quality and diversity. Exciting things are happening in Chile and some of them are with long standing producers and others with newer ones. Vina Koyle is one of the younger wineries that has stood out too me time and again in their early history. It’s been a pleasure to taste their wines on numerous occasions alongside their winemaker Cristobal Undurraga. Cristobal’s family has been in the wine business in Chile since 1885. They owned and eventually sold the massive Undurraga Winery. At that time he and his immediate family purchased property and created a new winery to focus on premium wines; thus was born Koyle, named after a flower. One of the many things that becomes apparent from speaking to Cristobal for any length of time is the passion with which he approaches everything in life. To hear him speak about his property, winemaking techniques and the like is both a revelation and an inspiration. One example of his limitless reservoir of enthusiasm for technique is the Sauvignon Blanc he has made for two vintages now which gets fermented in a trio of different vessels, In particular the concrete eggs he uses have really excited him with their possibilities. Cristobal is also constantly planting new varietals to see what works on their property. This is a piece of land that they have revived from being practically barren to having a thriving eco-system that is farmed sustainably and bio-dynamically. Here’s a look at a couple of my favorites amongst the current releases of Koyle wines.

The Koyle 2012 Costa Sauvignon Blanc was produced using fruit sourced just 9 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean in Paredones Colchagua Costa. This offering is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Three different lots were sourced from a trio of exposures in this vineyard. Each was vinified separately and uniquely. The methods utilized were Burgundy barrels, stainless steel, and concrete eggs. This wine spent 10 months on the lees. 3,000 6 bottle cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $24.99. White flower aromas, citrus and spice are all part of the nose here. The palate is rich and mineral laden with depth and complexity to spare. Tropical and citrus fruit flavors abound. The mouth feel is lush and rich and the finish is long and lusty. There is a lot of solid Sauvignon Blanc coming out of Chile these days, however here’s one that sets itself apart from the pack. This is a remarkable wine only in its second vintage; it’s likely to get even better over the upcoming vintages as they hone their block selection and other methodology even more finely.

The Koyle 2010 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced at the winery’s Los Lingues Estate in Colchagua. This offering blends together Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), Syrah (8%), and Malbec (7%). Fermentation took place over 2 weeks in a temperature controlled environment. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in French oak. 8,300 cases were produced and this Cabernet has a suggested retail price of $16.99. Plum and violet aromas dominate the nose of this 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Koyle Reserva Cabernet has a rich and mouth-filling palate loaded with deep black fruit flavors. Cinnamon and cloves are part of a treasure trove of spices that add depth and complexity. Earth, tobacco and dark, dusty chocolate notes are part of the above average finish. This wine is a real winner in its price category.

The Koyle 2007 Royale Syrah was produced from grapes sourced at the Estate Vineyard. In addition to Syrah (93%), a small amount of Malbec (7%) was also blended in. The fruit was hand harvested and select clusters were used. Vinification too place in stainless steel; 18 months of aging in French oak followed. 2,200 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $25.99. Dark cherry and red raspberry fills the nose of this 2007 Syrah. Berry flavors lead the way on a palate that is loaded with depth and remarkable minerality. Bits of smoked meat and earth are part of the finish whose length is terrifically long and persistent in both complexity and proportionate richness. This is a knockout example of Syrah from Chile. At its price point it’s a steal too. Grab it up while it’s still on shelves.

While this trio of wines represents my favorites from the recent dinner with Koyle winemaker Cristobal Undurraga it’s important for me to note I feel strongly about their portfolio in general. While their family has been in the business a long time, the Koyle brand is still a new one. The strides they have made in a few short years are impressive; their future is bright and sure to be full of delicious wines.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

 
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