Posted by Gabe on April 22, 2013
Common perception holds that Rosé’s don’t age well. Sometimes common beliefs are totally wrong and in other cases they become foregone conclusions for a good reason. In the case of Rosé’s longevity the truth is not 100% either of those things. Reality is that very few Rosés are built to age well. Some will hang around and be quite tasty for a couple of years but most go south after that. I’m the sort of person who is perfectly content drinking good, dry Rosé in the middle of winter, so I’m a fan. When the opportunity popped up to taste several vintages of Rosé from Chêne Bleu out of both standard bottle and magnum for some vintages over a meal, how could I resist?
Chêne Bleu is a project that began 20 years back. The husband and wife team of Nicole & Xavier Rolet began restoration of a property in the Southern Rhone that had been lying dormant for many, many years. Their work included restitution of the vineyards which are now farmed sustainably as well as the estate house itself. It was a massive undertaking and took years from start to fruition of their first vintage. They make several other wines such as Viognier, two Red Rhone blends and a White Rhone Blend, but Rosé represents the lion’s share of their production.
The current release is the Chêne Bleu 2012 Rosé. This vintage it was produced from a blend of Grenache (60%), Syrah (35%), and Cinsault (5%). Prior to 2011, they weren’t using Cinsault in this wine yet. The Grenache and Syrah vines utilized have 40 and 30 years of age on them respectively. This wine which was produced using entirely natural methods and finished in screw-cap has a suggested retail price of $28. It’s also available in large format bottles. The Chêne Bleu Rosé has a lovely pale, pink hue, just the sort of color that comes to mind when I daydream about deliciously dry Rosé. This wine has a big nose loaded with gentle red fruit aromas; strawberry and bits of Bing cherry are both in evidence. The palate is gentle and layered with boatloads of flavor. Ref berry flavors dominate with citrus and hints of stone fruit taking part as well. There is crisp acidity and tons of spice such as white pepper and cardamom on a finish that is long and persistent. This wine is absolutely delicious all by itself; however it’s also well suited to pair with a fairly wide array of foods.
A couple things are of particular note having had the chance to taste vintages as far back as the 2007. One is the overriding fact that these wines age well for at least a 5 year period. Another is that the ones poured out of Magnum had some similarities. I found them both to show off a bit more spice and a couple of extra hints of sour fruit on the finish. Unlike the 750 ml bottles, the magnums were finished in cork. Regardless both we quite tasty, but the subtle differences are worth mentioning and looking for if you have a chance to drink them out of different formats
Across the board the Chêne Bleu wines are well made, proportionate offerings that are built to accompany food. Any of them would be welcome on my table at anytime, however I have a special place in my heart for Rosé and now I have a new one to drink regularly. If you love good dry Rosé you should make a special effort to obtain the Chêne Bleu. If for some crazy reason you don’t already love Rosé this could be the wine to turn you. They say every true wine lover eventually falls head over heels for Rose; so why wait, get some Chêne Bleu now.
Posted in Cinsault, Grenache, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 3, 2012
Rosé is one of the things in the wine world that I most enjoy about summer. Theoretically they taste just as good in cooler months. However to my lips, when the temperature rises, well made Rosé is even more delicious and tempting. Part of their appeal is their versatility with food. Their refreshing nature and the fact that they feature some of the characteristics of both red and white wines all lend to what makes them cherished by many wine lovers. Today I’ll look at a quartet of current Rosés from California producers.
First up is the Pedroncelli 2011 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel. This Rosé is produced from fruit sourced in the winery’s home appellation of Dry Creek Valley. It’s a 100% varietal wine. Pedroncelli has been making Rosé since the 1950’s. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This wine saw no oak treatment. Just fewer than 1,000 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry emerge from the welcoming nose of this Rosé. Cherry flavors dominate the palate along with hints of white pepper. Vanilla, and continuing juicy red fruit flavors continue on the crisp and refreshing finish. This a lovely dry Rosé of Zinfandel with some perceived sweetness from all the engaging fruit flavors. This is an excellent choice for a picnic.
Next up is Clayhouse Wines 2011 Adobe Pink. This wine was produced from fruit sourced at the winery’s Red Cedar Vineyard located at the outskirts of Paso Robles. It’s a blend of Mourvedre (38%), Grenache Noir (37%), and Syrah (25%). Harvesting, crushing and processing of the grapes was handled as white varietals would be. Following fermentation in stainless steel, 25% of the wine spent 2 months in neutral oak. 600 cases of this selection were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $14. Bright red fruit aromas and hints of citrus are apparent on the nose of this wine. Strawberry, cherry and bits of vanilla bean are apparent through the palate. This wine is incredibly fruity and juicy with just a touch of sweetness to round things out. Raspberry and continued cherry flavors close things out with bits of spice weaving in and out. This Rosé works particularly well ice cold.
Today’s third wine is the Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Stepping Stone Corallina Syrah Rosé. The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Oak Knoll appellation within Napa Valley. This offering was produced entirely from Syrah. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel followed by 5 months of aging in neutral French oak. 455 cases of the Corallina were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $20. The Corallina Rosé from Cornerstone opens with a highly engaging and deeply perfumed nose. Red and black cherries are joined by a crush of spices including vanilla bean. The palate is loaded with continued red fruit characteristics including strawberries, cherries, hints of green herbs and a crush of spices led by nutmeg and white pepper. This wine is crisp, dry and refreshing. The finish shows off wisps of sour red fruits and a touch of crème fraiche. This is an very nice example of Rosé from Napa Valley and it will be an excellent partner to a wide array of summer foods.
Today’s final wine is the V. Sattui Winery 2011 North Coast Rosato. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignane. Fermentation took place with select yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel. This Rosé is available directly from the winery for $21.75. The first thing you’ll notice about the V. Sattui Rosé is that it has a slightly darker hue than the average. Made up of classic varietals the nose of this wine leaps from the glass with rich, red fruit aromas. Strawberry, red plum and a hint of red apple are apparent on the palate along with a bit of quince. Bright cherry, red raspberry, black and white pepper are all part of the finish which shows off the impression of sweetness due to all the engaging fruit flavors. This wine has a bit more heft than the other Rosé’s above and thus will stand up to some more substantial foods. Anything off of the grill will work perfectly.
This quartet of Rosé’s should keep your taste buds lit up all summer long. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing glass of wine to enjoy on your deck or something to pair with the foods of summer, I urge you to enjoy some Rosé this summer.
Posted in Carignane, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine, Zinfandel | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on August 12, 2011
Grenache is a varietal that in my opinion should be even more popular than it is. When it’s well made it can often pair with a wide array of foods. This engaging red is also often fun to drink on its own. In its homeland of Spain it’s known as Garnacha and is one of the most important red varietals. Today I’ll look at a widely available, budget priced offering from Tapeña.
The Tapeña 2009 Garnacha was produced from fruit sourced in the Tierra de Castilla region of Spain. This selection is 100% Garnacha. It has a suggested retail price of $9.99.
This 2009 Garnacha has a heady nose that’s studded with ripe berry fruit aromas and an undercurrent of spices. Both ripe and dried dark berry fruit flavors play off of each other through the palate along with tongue tingling spices such as black pepper and nutmeg. Sour cherries, wild strawberry, rhubarb and vanilla bean flavors all emerge on the finish which shows reasonable length. This wine has soft tannins and firm acidity.
As is typical of Garnacha this offering is made to pair with food. Beef sliders topped with caramelized onions and blue cheese would be an inspired match. On the other end of the spectrum dark chocolate would also work well. In any case at less than $10 this wine is a really nice value. If you’re already a fan of Spanish Garnacha, here’s another example to try. On the other hand, if you’re new to this varietal this is a fine Garnacha to start with.
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Posted by Gabe on July 18, 2011
The El Coto de Rioja 2010 Rioja Rosado was produced using fruit sourced at estate vineyards. El Coto which was founded in 1975 has 500 hectares under vine. This offering is a 50/50 blend of Garancha and Tempranillo. This wine sits on the skin for 48 hours followed by cold fermentation. This offering has a suggested retail price of $10.
Aromas of strawberry, cherry and watermelon burst from the nose of this 2010 Rosé. The palate is exceptionally juicy and vibrant; it’s loaded with fresh red fruits. Strawberry, cherry, raspberry and watermelon are all present. Rhubarb and sweet black cherry flavors emerge on the finish as well as white pepper. This wine is incredibly refreshing and will pair well with an incredibly wide array of foods. It’s also delicious on its own.
When it comes to Rosés for summer 2011, this example from El Coto in Rioja is going to be hard to beat for the money. If you look around you can easily find this wine for less than $10. For that price it offers lots of value. The fresh fruit flavors are sure to be crowd pleasing and the refreshing nature of this wine, which is supported by racy acidity, makes it a great bet for outdoor entertaining. Just yesterday I attended a party where I was asked to bring the wine. I brought a full case of this very Rosé and everyone was quite happy. One partygoer told me that she normally only drank Pinot Grigio but that this wine has convinced her to try other things. It only takes one terrific Rosé to convert the non-believers. Try the El Coto it may do the same for you.
Posted in Grenache, Rosé, Tempranillo, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on October 20, 2010
When I first started drinking Spanish wine, most of what I explored was from Rioja. Many of them, Tempranillo based wines. As time has gone on of course I’ve looked to numerous other Spanish wine regions; not to mention a host of other grape varieties. Rioja however retains a special significance for me. Today I’ll look at a new release from Palacios Remondo that blends three classic varieties.
The Palacios Remondo 2007 La Montesa was produced using fruit sourced at estate vineyards which sit at an altitude of 1,800 feet. The vines have an average age of 22 years. This offering is a blend of Garnacha (60%), Tempranillo, (35%), and Mazuelo (5%). All of the fruit for this wine was handpicked and clusters were hand selected twice. After fermentation barrel aging occurred over 12 months in a combination of new and used French (85%) and American (15%) oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $19.99.
Blackberry, plum and vanilla characteristics are present in the nose and accompany bold and enticing crushed cherry aromas which appear in spades. Throughout the palate berry fruit and spice flavors are underscored by flourishes of orange syrup and wisps of apricot, Rhubarb, white pepper and dusty, dark baker’s chocolate notes emerge with conviction in the above average finish. Lush tannins and firm acidity provide excellent structure.
I sampled this wine on its own and then later on with food. It worked quite well in both cases. However, these grapes, made in this style really excel at a different level with food. It’s as if the pairing allows the flavors to fire on all cylinders. However you drink this wine, you’ll enjoy it if you like well balanced Spanish wines that show off varietal character and sense of place. This is a very solid value.
Posted in Blends, Grenache, Tempranillo, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on August 20, 2010
Finding a wine producer I really like is heartening. Then when I see them replicating quality over a number of vintages it takes things to a new level. Cornerstone Cellars in Napa is such a producer. The Cabernet’s they produce are top shelf wines. Having had a chance to taste several recent vintages as well as a few with some age on them I’ve taken note, of the consistency of quality, their wines show off, balanced against vintage variation that helps display their sense of place. So it’s been particularly nice to see them launch Stepping Stone, the sister label to Cornerstone. The first wines I had from this label were impressive in their price point and I was eager to taste their new releases. Today I’ll look at two of those with a few more to follow in the next week or so.
The Stepping Stone by Cornerstone 2009 Corallina Rosé was produced using fruit sourced at the Fore Family Vineyard in the Red Hills section of Lake County. This offering is a blend of Grenache (50%) and Syrah (50%). This wine underwent cold fermentation in stainless steel followed by oak aging in older puncheons. Just fewer than 200 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $16.
This 2009 Rosé has a fresh and inviting nose that brings to mind a bowl of red summer fruits sitting in a bowl on a nearby windowsill. Cherry, strawberry and spice flavors all come out in force through the lively and bright palate. Baker’s spices emerge towards the back end and lead to the finish which shows off some red ruby grapefruit and crisp savory notes. A thump of vigorous white pepper closes things out. Acidity keeps things in check. More than anything this wine is summer in a glass. Pair this delicious, beautifully dry rosé with life itself.
The second wine is the Stepping Stone by Cornerstone 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was produced using fruit sourced at vineyards in four distinct Napa regions; Oakville, Wooden Valley, Coombsville and Carneros. This selection is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 964 cases of this wine were bottled and it has a suggested retail price of $35.
Plum and blackberry aromas waft invitingly from the nose of this wine. Taking the first sips it’s clear this offering is a bit tight and needs some air to allow it to blossom. An hour or so in the decanter does the trick and after that it opens up more and more with each passing moment and every successive sip. This is a full bodied wine that shows lots of sweet berry fruit through the palate; blackberry is in particular evidence with black raspberry playing a secondary role. These flavors are joined by a veritable cornucopia of spices that emerge a little at a time and lead to the finish. Lot’s of dark bittersweet chocolate, sour cherry and wisps of pomegranate mark the lengthy and layered finish. This wine is full flavored, full bodied and impeccably balanced. At $35 this represents an excellent value in Napa Valley Cabernet when you consider its quality level. it’s very tasty right now but a couple of years in the cellar will make it even lovelier.
Posted in Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Rosé, Grenache | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on January 5, 2010
Over the last year or two I’ve had more and more wines from Mendocino County in California. And I have to say that I’m finding quite a few that I enjoy. So when the opportunity presents itself to taste one I haven’t had before I jump at the chance. Such was the case with this blend from Paul Dolan Vineyards. This Mendocino producer farms organically and biodynamically. Those two things also up the appeal for me.
The 2006 Paul Dolan Vineyards Deep Red is made from 100% Estate fruit and entirely sourced at their Dark Horse Farms Vineyard. This offering is a blend of Syrah (56%), Petite Sirah (31%), and Grenache (12%). 770 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $45.
The color of this wine is immediately striking. Its hue is as black as night in the glass. Taking the first whiff dark fruit aromas such as plum and blueberry emerge and are immediately underscored by red fruit notes. The palate is layered with intense and intermingling fruit flavors. Both bright and dark flavors are prominent as the Syrah and Petite Sirah that dominate this blend tussle for control of your taste buds; black cherry, blackberry and raspberry are of particular note. Black pepper notes kick in mid-palate and lead to the finish which shows dark chocolate dipped raspberry, earth, minerals and espresso bean notes. That finish has very nice length. This wine is well balanced and has excellent acidity.
Despite alcohol clocking in at well over 15% this wine doesn’t drink hot in the least. I’m a sucker for Petite Sirah in general and the 31% in this offering makes it intense and brooding presence known. If you’re going to drink this wine over the next year or so I’d recommend decanting for at least an hour. If on the other hand you have patience, which I rarely do with Petite Sirah, feel free to cellar this for the next 5-8 years and watch it develop as the earthy characteristics take greater hold. This is a terrific wine.
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Posted in Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | 2 Comments »
Posted by Gabe on December 6, 2009
A couple of days ago I attended a luncheon where the Sierra de Viento wines were poured. This luncheon acted as an introduction of these wines to the US market. These wines have been produced by Bodegas San Valero. This wine Cooperative in the Aragon region of Spain was founded in 1944. After a short, early period of focus on bulk wines they have been dedicated to quality for many years. Their cooperative is composed of 700 members who together control 3,500 hectares of vineyard land.
The two main wines that were being introduced were a Tempranillo and Garancha. More on them in a moment. But first a few words about some wines we got to taste that were not specifically being introduced that day. First up we tasted a Cava alongside appetizers. This Sparkling Wine was lovely and dry with hazelnut, biscuit and hints of cream on the finish. A perfect example for the argument that Sparkling Wine should regularly be consumed with meals. It’s said to retail for around $9. A second Garnacha we tasted was a limited bottling that will see US shelves in a couple of months. I hope to have a detailed review of it closer to release. My first impression is that it was an intense expression of Old Vine Garancha. I believe somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 cases of it were produced and it’s going to retail for around $30. Dessert was served with a Moscatel. This Dessert wine did an excellent job of providing balance. It was sweet for sure, but only modestly so. It paired well with sweets and was a nice ending to the meal. It was the type of dessert wine you could conceivably sip for a while. In addition to being moderate in sweetness it was also modest in alcohol. Those were the “other” wines. The stars of the show so to speak were a Tempranillo and a Garancha,
First up was the Sierra de Viento 2008 Tempranillo. Fruit for this wine was sourced in Cariñena. It is 100% Tempranillo. This wine will retail for just under $10. What struck me most about this wine was the incredible freshness of its fruit. Ripe red berry flavors abounded and were quite appealing. The wine was balanced and had a nice finish with a hint of sour cherry. It was served with a bit of a chill on it as one would for Beaujolais or some Chianti. It worked for this wine which was a terrific match for food.
The second of the featured wines was the Sierra de Viento 2007 Old Vine Garnacha. Fruit for this wine was sourced from vineyards in Cariñena over 30 years old. This offering is 100% Garnacha. It was aged in French and American oak for 8 months. This wine will retail for just over $10. Where the flavors on the Tempranillo leaned towards fresh fruit those for the Old Vine Garnacha had a more intense, dried fruit characteristic. It also had loads of spice notes and lengthy finish. This wine paired beautifully with hangar steak and pork loin. In general it will match with heartier flavors than the Tempranillo.
Both of these new Sierra de Viento releases from Bodegas San Valero represent excellent values. Approximately 40,000 cases of each was produced and once they hit US shelves they will hopefully be easy to find. I for one know that I’ll be looking for them. These wines were developed with the US market in mind. I imagine they’ll find quite an audience here. The Tempranillo is a departure from the flavors many consumers are used to with similarly priced wines from the Rioja region. It’s fruitier and fresher where Rioja tends towards more oak laden, longer aged wines. The Garnacha is intense but not overly so and not burdened with tremendous alcohol content as some well known examples are. I look forward to these as well as the Cava, Moscatel and small production Garancha reaching our shelves. Keep your eyes open for them; you can thank me later.
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Posted in Grenache, Tempranillo, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 18, 2009
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to taste and write about what were then the current Cabernet Sauvignon releases for Cornerstone Cellars in Napa. Both wines were truly exceptional; the Howell Mountain Cabernet was a particularly special bottle. A few months later I had the chance, while I was out in Napa Valley, to taste some of their older vintages as well as what were then upcoming releases. Once again the wines were very impressive. So I was quite pleased to find wines from their second label Stepping Stone on my desk to sample. Today I’ll look at their current releases of Grenache and Cabernet Franc. Stay tuned for a close look at the current releases from their main label soon too.
First up is the Stepping Stone 2007 Grenache. The fruit for this wine was sourced in Lake County. In addition to Grenache (96%), a bit of Zinfandel (4%) is blended in as well. 500 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $20.
Personally I’ve been drinking more and more Grenache of late. As time has gone on I’ve found it to be amongst the food friendliest of red varietals. This Stepping Stone selection opens with deep, dark berry aromas. Strawberry, rhubarb, blackberry pie and a host of spice notes are all part of the full flavored palate. The dark fruit continues through the finish where it’s joined by black pepper and a final savory note that clings persistently to the back of the throat. Ultimately it draws you in for another sip. This Grenache is framed by good acidity.
The second selection is the Stepping Stone 2007 Cabernet Franc. The fruit for this offering was sourced in Carneros. In addition to Cabernet Franc (90%), Merlot (10%) has been blended in. 500 cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $30.
When I’m out tasting wine, there are certain varietals whose mere presence on a tasting sheet build up anticipation. Even before getting to them on the list I find myself thinking about them and hoping that they live up to my expectation for that varietal. Cabernet Franc is most definitely one of those grapes. So as you could imagine, I’m glad that the second selection from Stepping Stone is a Cabernet Franc.
This 2007 Cabernet Franc from Carneros leads with leather, plum, blueberry and a hint of eucalyptus in the nose. Continued plum and blueberry combine in a gentle, layered and diverse palate. Cigar box emerges on the finish along with mineral and gentle hints of earth and little waves of spice. This wine has absolutely terrific acidity. Much like the Grenache this Cabernet Franc is a food lover’s delight.
First off these two releases under Cornerstone Cellars Stepping Stone label are delicious wines in their own right. Secondly, each is an excellent examples of Grenache and Cabernet Franc respectively. They also do a fine job representing the regions where the fruit was sourced. While not intended for long term aging like the Cornerstone Cabernet’s these Stepping Stone wines will be delicious for the next 3-5 years. They’re reasonably priced for the quality they offer and both would be solid bets with a wide array of food.
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Posted in Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 7, 2009
With summer here a couple of things come to mind, Yankee Baseball and drinking lots of Rosé. The two happen to go well together. There are several Rosés which have become standards for me year after year. The Rosato from Swanson Vineyards is one of these. However every summer I keep an eye out for selections I haven’t tried. Today I’ll look at the one from Fat bastard.
The Fat bastard 2008 Rosé is made from fruit sourced in Languedoc, This offering is an even split of Grenache and Shiraz. The wine most often sells for just under $10.
This 2008 Rosé has a lovely pink hue, perhaps a bit darker than the average French offering in the category. The nose offers an enticing mix of strawberries, cherries, white pepper and a hint of sugar. Watermelon is the most dominant component through the palate. While this wine isn’t really sweet it reminded me of Jolly Ranchers. Raspberries and dark cherries join the watermelon flavors in supporting roles. The finish is crisp and refreshing, beckoning you back for another sip. This Rosé has excellent acidity and will pair well with the casual foods associated with summer. I paired it with Hot Dogs slathered in onions and a side of Pasta Salad; an excellent and laid back summer match.
The refreshing and fruity nature of this Rosé is what stands out most. It’s noteworthy to add that while I often drink Rosés ice cold this one was better a couple of degrees warmer. That still chilled, but slightly warmer temperature allowed several additional layers of flavor to emerge.
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Posted in Grenache, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »