Posted by Gabe on July 3, 2014
My Latest Story for:
Concha y Toro is the largest winery in Chile. The depth and variety of their portfolio spans many styles, price-points, and varietals. They employ several winemakers; each focuses on a different tier of wines. I recently had lunch with Marcelo Papa at Haven’t Kitchen. He’s the Concha y Toro winemaker responsible, among others, for the Marqués de Casa Concha line. These offerings are single vineyard, site-specific wines. Over lunch we tasted a number of the selections in this range, each paired with a food that showcased a different global influence. The goal was to highlight the ability of their wines to pair with cuisine of various styles from all over the world. If wine pairing is performance, this was a tour de force showing. The foods prepared by Concha y Toro executive chef Ruth Van Waerebeek worked fabulously with Marcelo’s wines. Prior to sitting down to lunch we tasted a few newly launched wines outside the Marques line. Here are the six wines from this afternoon that really struck a chord with me. Read the rest over at The Daily Meal
Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Pedro Jimenez, Sauvignon Blanc | Tagged: The Daily Meal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 2, 2014
My Latest Story for Bullz-eye.com:
The Kautz family has been farming grapes in California for more than 65 years. With more than 5,000 acres under vine, they’re one of the largest growers in the state. In addition to selling fruit, for more than 25 of those years they have also been making their own wine. Ironstone Vineyards is located in the Sierra Foothills. They farm their property sustainably as shepherds of the land they inhabit. Their portfolio features a wide range of wines, many available nationally, as well as a few limited releases found in their tasting room. Here’s a look at four of my favorites among their current offerings.
Ironstone Vineyards 2012 Ironstone Reserve Chardonnay – The fruit for this wine came from Sierra Foothills vineyards that have been in the family for four generations. This offering is 100 percent Chardonnay. The fruit was hand-selected and gently pressed. Barrel aging occurred entirely in French oak; bottle aging followed prior to release. About 1,000 cases of this wine were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of of $19.99. Bright apple, white fig and gentle crème brulee aromas are all part of the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is studded with Asian pear and… read the rest over at Bullz-eye.com
Posted in Blends, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on April 22, 2014
Earth Day is a good time to celebrate some of the innovations in the wine industry. In this particular case I’m thinking of Chile’s Concha y Toro. They’re the largest producer in Chile with a vast portfolio of wines in varied styles and price tiers. They also continue to push the envelope when it comes to earth friendliness. They do this in a variety of ways including lighter glass bottles to lower their carbon footprint as well as being the first winery to measure their water usage footprint. And that’s just a couple of examples. Here’s a delicious wine that comes from a vineyard in a cooler area that naturally withstands the effects of climate change.
Concha y Toro 2012 Serie Ribera Gran Reserva Chardonnay – This offering is from a series of wines Concha y Toro has released that focuses on grapes grown near one of Chile’s major rivers. This selection is 100% Chardonnay and all the fruit came from the Ucuquer Vineyard in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. It has a suggested retail price of $16.99. An inviting nose is lead by lemon curd, apple, and vanilla bean aromas. The palate shows off a pure and unadulterated burst of yellow delicious apple and Anjou pear flavors. Supporting bits of spice are present as well, Mineral notes, tart granny smith apple and wisps of lemon ice which marks the long, crisp, clean and pleasing finish.
Sauvignon Blanc from Chile gets a lot of attention, and rightly so as it’s one of the great countries for that grape. However it seems to overshadow the Chardonnays, which is a shame because Chile produces quite a few excellent ones. This particular example from Concha y Toro is not only delicious it’s also a terrific value and represents their dedication to earth friendliness. That is certainly something to tip a glass back to any day of the year but particularly on Earth Day!
Posted in Chardonnay, Chile | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 27, 2014
Each year Gambero Rosso visits the United States and hosts the Tre Bicchieri tastings in several American cities. What they’re showcasing is all of the best, most highly regarded wines from Italy the previous year. I’ve been attending the tasting in New York for the last seven or so years, and I can honestly say there isn’t an annual large-scale tasting I look forward to more. The breadth of excellent Italian wine is stunning. Whether you want to focus on a particular grape or style, or your preference is to wander around and survey the bounty, you’re more than likely to find something delicious at every turn. So when a wine or wines really make a strong impression amid such an imposing gathering, it’s noteworthy. This year one of my single favorites was a beautiful sparkling wine from Rotari, head over to my column at The Daily Meal to read about it.
Posted in Chardonnay, Sparkling Wine, The Daily Meal, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 3, 2014
A few months back I had dinner with the chief winemaker for the entire Hardys brand. They’re one of the largest producers in not only Australia but the world. The Hardys umbrella contains a number of labels under the flagship brand. Nottage Hill and William Hardy are two of them. Here’s a look at a wine from each of those that I just tasted and really enjoyed.
Hardys 2012 William Hardy Chardonnay was produced from fruit sourced from 7 different regions, however just less than 60% came from the Padthaway region. Fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel tanks. This Chardonnay has a suggested retail price of $17. The nose here is loaded with a glorious amount of appealing apple aromas that are underscored by bits of stone fruit. Lemon curd is prominent on the palate along with pineapple and a bevy of pear flavors that include both Bartlett and Anjou. Apple pie spices lead the finish along with plenty of minerals and a tiny wisp of crème fraiche. This Chardonnay is crisp, clean and refreshing. It’s as enjoyable all by itself as it will be paired soft cheeses or light appetizers.
Hardys 2012 Nottage Hill Shiraz was produced from fruit sourced in South Eastern Australia. This offering is entirely Shiraz. Nottage Hill wines have been around since the 1967 vintage. It has a suggested retail price of $13. Red and black plum aromas are joined by black currant and cassis on the dark and somewhat brooding nose of this Shiraz. Dark fruit flavors dominate the palate with blackberry, black raspberry and plum leading the charge. The finish shows off kirsch liqueur and bits of chocolate sauce as well as a touch of earth. This is a proportionate and balanced Shiraz that will pair well with both medium and full flavored foods.
These two wines from Hardys are indicative of everything from the portfolio I’ve tasted of late. That is they are true to varietal, well balanced and food friendly. Each of these also represents a solid value. The Shiraz in particular is a steal. For closer to $10 a bottle, if you shop around, it’ll serve as a terrific house wine.
Posted in Australia, Chardonnay, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on December 30, 2013
I’m a firm believer that most of us should be drinking sparkling wine more often. It can be versatile with food, often delicious on its own and quite frankly just plain fun. That said the one day we all seem to agree on when it comes to Sparkling Wine consumption is New Years Eve. With that in mind here are three that I tried recently and really enjoyed. One of them falls into the traditional category of classic Champagne. The other two are new world entries, one traditional in style and intent, and the other leaps and bounds in a different direction. Most importantly each of them is unique and delicious.
Paringa – 2012 Sparkling Shiraz. This wine is composed entirely of Shiraz. The fruit was sourced from 14 year old vines. This sparkler saw a short window of time in French oak. 10,000 cases of this Sparkling Shiraz were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $17.99. Black raspberry aromas lead a huge nose that is fruity and floral. If the nose of a wine could be compared to an invitation, this one is welcoming you to a party that is fun and boisterous. The palate is studded with vibrant black fruit flavors; blackberry and raspberry are most prominent. Molasses, anise, black cherry and a mélange of spices are all present in the above average finish. The bottom line here is that the Paringa Sparkling Shiraz is a fun and delicious wine. Pair it with dessert, a burger or drink it by itself, each alternative will work.
Mumm Napa – Brut Prestige was made from a combination of Pinot Noir (51%), Chardonnay (46%), Pinot Meunier (2%), and Pinot Gris (1%). The first three grapes are the classic triumvirate most often associated with Sparkling Wine; The Pinot Gris is something out of the standard realm that they have added. Fermentation took place primarily in stainless steel. 18 months of aging on yeast followed. This widely available Brut style wine has a suggested retail price of $22. Bits of citrus and white stone fruits fill the nose this wine. This entry level selection in the Mumm portfolio and it’s a classic Brut. The palate is dry and loaded with fruit and spice. Yeast and biscuit characteristics emerge on the finish which has nice length. While the friendly price makes it an obvious choice for holiday celebrations this wine will go very well with food whether it’s paired with a first course during dinner or alongside brunch, you’ll be pleased with the results.
Perrier-Jouet – Grand Brut (NV). This Champagne was composed from a blend of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (40%), and Chardonnay (20%). After fermentation and racking, more than 300 wines are tasted to assemble this blend. In addition to the current vintage reserve wines from previous vintages amounting to between 10% and 20% are also blended in. The wine is then aged in their estate cellars. This Champagne has a suggested retail price of $50. Aromas of apple, ginger and lemon are all part of the gently expressive nose. Orchard fruit flavors are dominant on the palate along with a core of accompanying spices. Bits of brioche and biscuit are present on the lengthy finish along with lemon zest and white pepper spice. This is a classic example of Brut that shines year after year. It will be a fine accompaniment to lighter foods and also a terrific choice to pop open to celebrate the arrival of 2014.
Drinking more sparkling wine, Champagne or otherwise, is a fine resolution for the new year. Get off on the right foot and finish off 2013 with one or more from this trio, you can’t really go wrong here.
Posted in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on December 20, 2013
Davis Bynum was the first Winery to truly recognize how special and viable Russian River Valley is for Pinot Noir. Their faith in the area was evidenced when they made the regions first single vineyard Pinot Noir with the 1973 vintage. Today the winery is safely entrenched under the Rodney Strong umbrella. They continue to make wines that are true to their origins. Here are three site specific examples.
The Davis Bynum 2011 River West Chardonnay was produced from fruit sourced exclusively at the namesake vineyard. Blocks of fruit from this vineyard were harvested separately and each batch was pressed and fermented separately. Barrel aging took place over 10 months in entirely French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $30. Gravenstein apple and baker’s spice aromas are in full force on the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is fruit and spice driven with apples, pear, pineapple, cinnamon and clove all in evidence. Hint of lemon curd lead the finish along with minerals and a copious amount of spice. This Chardonnay is rich and round with crispy acidity. It’s delicious sipped alone but will flourish with lighter fare.
The Davis Bynum 2011 Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir was produced using fruit sourced in the namesake vineyard. It is composed entirely of Pinot Noir and features a blend of 7 clones. After fermentation it spent 10 months, exclusively in French oak. It has a suggested retail price of $40. Wild strawberry aromas fill the nose of this classic Russian River Pinot. Black cherry leads a substantial palate which is loaded with concentrated (for Pinot) flavors. Cloves, cinnamon, rhubarb and flint are all part of the focused and lengthy finish. This is a delicious Pinot that benefits greatly from about an hour in the decanter. It has firm acidity and medium tannins. It would be a tremendous match with honey glazed ham.
The Davis Bynum 2011 Jane’s Vineyard, Garfield Block Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced in the single named block. It’s planted exclusively to clone 667. After temperature controlled fermentation it was aged in entirely new French oak for 10 months. This Pinot has a suggested retail price of $60. This Pinot has a heady and intoxicating nose featuring a bevy of fresh red berry aromas. Strawberry, red cherry and interspersing bits of raspberry are part of the fierce palate which is remarkable in its cohesiveness and depth. Black tea, leather, and continued cherry characteristics are all part of the lengthy finish which is particularly distinguished by a refined richness. Garfield Block is a stunning example of Pinot that shows a driven singularity which you’d be hard pressed not to be knocked out by. If you’re looking for specific, vineyard driven Pinot Noir, grab this one!
I’ve had the chance to taste with winemaker Greg Morthole on several occasions. It’s clear to me that with the Davis Bynum wines he works hard to honor Davis’s legacy while moving the ball forward a bit. Quite frankly it’s a smashing success. These are delicious wines that speak of their place quite loudly. By producing excellent single vineyard and block wines they are re-cementing the foundation Davis Bynum first established. This is a beautiful trio of wines, which is also perfectly suited for the Holiday table. Taken as a piece, they’re a fascinating, focused, and delectable look at Russian River Valley. Grab them now, thank me later.
Posted in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir | Leave a Comment »
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 »
Posted by Gabe on November 19, 2013
With a boat load of holidays approaching everyone is thinking about their wine and spirits needs. The first thing on peoples minds is likely to be the wines they’ll serve if they’re hosting a holiday or what to bring over as a guest at someone’s home. Those are important, but I think it’s as important to consider wines to have around for the multitude of more casual get-togethers that happen during the long holiday season that happens from Thanksgiving through the New Year. With that in mind here’s a look at two budget friendly wines from Gnarly Head that fit the bill for casual entertaining, late night snack pairing and just any old time you want to open a bottle without breaking the budget.
First up is the Gnarly Head 2012 Chardonnay. The fruit for this wine came from vineyards in Lodi and Monterey California. Grapes were fermented in a combination of oak and stainless steel; 40% underwent malolactic fermentation. In addition to Chardonnay (84%), this wine has some Chenin Blanc (10%), Malvasia Bianca (4%) and Viognier (2%) blended in. 50,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $9.99. Golden Delicious apple aromas are joined by toast and spice on the welcoming nose of this Chardonnay. Vibrant orchard fruit flavors define the palate. A copious amount of bakers spices are present as well. The crisp and fruity finish which has solid length shows off green apple and white pepper. This is a clean and refreshing Chardonnay that drinks well on it’s own, as well as paired well with classic Chardonnay loving dishes. Pastas with creamy sauces, roasted white meets and rich cheeses all come to mind.
The Gnarly Head 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel was produced from fruit sourced in the Lodi region. In addition to Zinfandel (84%), this wine has some Petite Sirah (16%) blended in. The fruit came from vines that have between 35 and 80 years of age on them. Fermentation took place over a bit more than a week. Aging in a combination of French and American oak followed. 180,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11.99. Dark plum aromas fill the nose of this Zin along with bits of violet and vanilla. The palate is medium bodied and loaded with dark and juicy fruit flavors. Sour black cherries and black pepper spice are part of the finish which has nice length. This Zin is easy to drink on its own and will also pair well with hearty foods. While many Zinfandels in this price category are over the top, Gnarly Head continues to be proportionate and well balanced. It’s a solid everyday value in Zinfandel and has been so for some time.
While these wines both retail for less than $12 you can often find them for a couple of bucks less if you shop around. At those prices these are very affordable wines to keep on hand for everyday drinking and spontaneous entertaining. When I think of wines in the around $10 price range like this I want offerings that are tasty, easy to drink, and true to the varietal in question. Both of these wines fulfill those criteria and they have loads of curb appeal. That’s to say they will be drinkable to a wide array of people.
Posted in Chardonnay, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on October 30, 2013
The folks at Trione Vineyards & Winery farm property in three distinct appellations within Sonoma County, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley & the Sonoma Coast. In total they have more than 650 acres. They use a small percentage of the resulting grapes to make the Trione Wines and sell the balance to others. Here’s a look at two of their current releases.
The Trione Vineyards & Winery 2010 Russian River Valley Chardonnay was produced using fruit sourced at their River Road Ranch vineyard. This is a 115 acre parcel in the middle of the Russian River Valley. The fruit was whole bunch pressed. Fermentation and aging occurred in French oak. 45% of the barrels utilized were new and the balance were composed of once and twice used oak. 862 cases of this Chardonnay were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $30. Baker’s spices and orchard fruit aromas dominate the lovely nose of this Chardonnay. Pineapple and yellow delicious apple flavors are prominently featured through the rich and layered palate which has loads of depth in the form of pure, unadulterated fruit flavors. Granny Smith apple, cloves, cinnamon, minerals a hint of crème fraiche are all part of the finish which is memorably lengthy. This wine is crisp, refreshing and lovely. It’s a fine, fine example of well made Russian River Valley Chardonnay at a fair price.
The Trione Vineyards & Winery 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was produced using fruit sourced from four blocks. These are all at their River Road Ranch Vineyard. The clones planted there are 115, 667 & 777. Open top tanks and manual punch downs were utilized. 20% of the fruit was whole cluster. Barrel aging took place over 15 months in French oak; 45% of the barrels used were new. 1,385 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $35. This Pinot has a heady and intoxicating nose which is spice laden and remarkably inviting. Cherries, cinnamon and bits of bay leaf are all in evidence on the palate. There is a gentle depth here and plenty of complexity. Sour black cherry, black tea, minerals and fine bits of earth are all present on the finish which has exceptionally good length and persistence. It will pair well with a broad array of foods.
Trione continues to turn out well made wines that show a genuine sense of both varietal and place. In the case of both of these wines we’re talking about Russian River Valley. Each of these represents that appellation favorably. The Chardonnay is lovely and quite delicious. The Pinot on the other hand is an absolutely outstanding value in Russian River Pinot. It simply outshines and outclasses many in that price range. You’re getting a ton of bang for the buck with this one so if you’re a fan of good Russian River Pinot, here’s one you’ll want to get your hands on.
Posted in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »