Posted by Gabe on November 20, 2014
Wine in containers other than traditional glass bottles has, in some cases, come a long way. It used to be a bit of a joke, but more and more there are wines of various higher levels of quality coming in alternative closures. One fairly new entry into the marketplace is Andegavia. They use the “cask” concept. At the end of the day it’s a bag in a box. The Andegavia releases come in a box that has a nicer shape and is overall better looking than lower priced competitors. As with most within the wide, box category, it containers 3 liters which is the equivalent of 4 standard bottles. The suggested retail price is $70 or $17.50 per bottle. Once you open it the wine is supposed to stay fresh for 30 days. I didn’t test this one over 30 days but I have done experiments with similar style packaging and the wine held up, virtually unchanged, until about the 28th day. The Andegavia is made from Russian River Valley fruit, one of the great areas for growing Pinot Noir. This vintage is now sold out, but the 2013 will be along any minute. They’re available at select retailers and you can place orders through their website. Several options are available when purchasing direct such as bulk discounts as well as a subscription service.
The packaging recommended decanting this wine and I gave that a shot. In fact what I did was pour some in a decanter and let it sit for about 45 minutes and then I poured myself a glass from there as well as from the cask. The decanting made a real difference in this offering. It was good right out of the cask but a bit tight. The fully expressive, decanted wine offered wild strawberry and red cherry aromas that are underscored by wisps of thyme and sage. The backbone of the palate is loaded with red and black cherry flavors as well as cinnamon and cardamom spice. Sour black cherry and rhubarb flavors emerge on the finish along with dollops of mineral and black tea.
Quality Pinot Noir under $20 a bottle is a tricky proposition at best. This example belies that. Money saved on glass and shipping costs help. An added benefit is that the packaging is completely recyclable. I poured this for people at a party and it was a huge hit with a large crowd. Whether you’re entertaining many people or simply just want to have a glass of wine with your dinner each night this Pinot Noir is an affordable option and a delicious wine. I look forward to trying other selections in their portfolio to see how they stack up to this Pinot. My first impression is a very positive one.
Posted in Alternative Packaging, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley | Tagged: Russian River Valley | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 19, 2014
Wine shelves all over the country are jammed with countless selections and choices are so varied it can be dizzying. With that in mind, I’m here to help you work your way through the haze of bottles. I tasted through more than three dozen wines across all price ranges and stylistic tiers, and here are my 11 favorites from the bunch.
Hugel et Fils 2012 Gentil ($15)
This vintage of “Gentil” blends together pinot gris (23 percent), pinot blanc (21 percent), riesling (20 percent), sylvaner (20 percent), gewurztraminer (14 percent), and muscat (2 percent). Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled vats. It was gently fined and filtered prior to bottling. Lychee fruit aromas dominate the inviting nose of this French blend. “Gentil” has a palate stuffed with white and yellow melon, peach, and apricot flavors. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah/Shiraz, Tempranillo, The Daily Meal, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 4, 2014
San Luis Obispo is almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s close to the ocean and near another Central Coast region, Paso Robles. I recently sat down and tasted through a diverse package of wines that hail from there, and in addition to the excellent quality, what really stood out was the diversity. Not only are they making some terrific wines in San Luis Obispo, they’re also utilizing varietals that you don’t see very much of in California that fit in perfectly alongside excellent bottles of California’s usual suspects. To read the rest, head over to The Daily Meal.
Posted in Albariño, Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo, Syrah/Shiraz | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 2, 2014
For more than 30 years the Trione Family has been growing and selling grapes in Sonoma County from their own property, as well as vineyards they manage. Almost a decade ago they launched Trione Vineyards & Winery to bottle their own wines. Scot Covington, their founding winemaker, brought winemaking experience in Sonoma County and elsewhere to the table as well as winery building and design knowledge. Over the last few years, I’ve been impressed with the quality and value their releases represent. They make Estate wines that represent two distinct appellations within Sonoma County: Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley. Here’s a look at the most recent releases from their 115-acre property located in the heart of the Russian River Valley. All three wines are 100 percent varietal. Head over to Bullz-Eye.com to read the rest.
Posted in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on October 16, 2014
When you take all the different grapes and styles into account, the diversity coming out of Italy can make your head spin with delight. Despite the variety, Barolo and Barbera remain among the most recognizable. Attilio Ghisolfi features both of those, and more, in their portfolio. The original nine acres of land that Attilio Ghisolfi farms for their wines have been in the family since 1895. However, it wasn’t until 1988 when they added another 21 acres that they began to make wine under their own label. I sat down recently over lunch at Arno in Manhattan and tasted through both their current offerings and a handful of older Library releases. Here’s a look at a few of my favorites. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.
Posted in Barbera, Barolo, Pinot Noir, The Daily Meal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on June 30, 2014
There may not be a harder grape to find bargains with than Pinot Noir. This notoriously fickle varietal doesn’t grow well everywhere and some people plant it in the wrong spot. Others mismanage the winemaking aspect. But when Pinot is right it can be ethereal. So I’m always interested in tasting as much Pinot as possible. I am particularly curious about examples that are appropriate for everyday consumption. So when an example from cult winemaker Jayson Woodbridge landed on my desk I was really curious to check it out. The fun packaging and name added to the intrigue for me.
Cherry Tart by Cherry Pie 2012 Pinot Noir was produced using fruit sourced in three different California wine growing regions. Sonoma Coast (49%), Monterey County (43%) and Santa Barbara County (8%) are the three regions represented. Fruit from only one vineyard in each area was used, making this what the winery calls a “multi-single vineyard blend.” Each lot of wine was fermented separately. Barrel aging took place in entirely French oak; 20% of the barrels used were new. This 100% Pinot Noir wine has a suggested retail price of $25. Red fruits rule the day on the nose of this Pinot. Wild Strawberry, cherry and bits of cranberry are all present along with wisps of spice. The palate is eager and willing with droves of super-appealing red fruit flavors such as cherry, plum and subtle hint of red raspberry. Vanilla bean characteristics are present as well. Bits of black tea, cranberry, cardamom, and toast are all present on the finish which has good length.
This is a fruity, eager to please example of Pinot Noir loaded with fresh flavors and genuine varietal character. It’s full bodied for a Pinot but never strays out of proportion. It’s perfectly suited for BBQ’s and picnics all summer long as it will pair well with a particularly wide array of foods. I paired with one of my favorite grain salads and the match was heavenly. The recipe follows, so pick up a bottle of Cherry Tart and try the recipe below. I think you’ll find that it’s a killer pairing. At $25, less if you shop around, this is a solid value in well made, Pinot Noir. Drink it in its engaging youth.
Roasted Mushroom & Farro Salad*
1 ½ cups Dry Farro
1 lb Mushrooms (1/2 lb each Portobello and button works well)
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Pecorino Romano (grated with the coarse side of a box grater)
1 Cup of Shelled Walnut Pieces or Pecans
1 Tbsp Parsley Flakes
9 Tbsp Olive Oil +
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Combine the lemon juice, 9 tablespoons of olive oil, parsley and red pepper flakes in a bowl or mixing cup; whisk vigorously and set aside.
Cook the Farro until done (approximately 20 minutes) in 3 cups of salted water. I tend to use vegetable bullion instead of salt to add an extra layer of flavor. When the Farro is cooked, drain and allow it to cool.
Mushrooms should be cleaned and chopped into roughly 1 inch pieces. Then toss them with a bit of salt, olive oil and black pepper. Put them on a cookie sheet and roast them in the oven (350 degrees) for about 25 minutes or until they are getting golden and slightly crispy. Allow them to cool.
Place the walnut pieces on a cookie sheet in the oven and lightly toast them. Allow them to cool.
Shred the Pecorino Romano on the largest side of a box grater. Doing it this way as opposed to grating on the small side adds to the consistency of the overall dish.
When everything has cooled mix the mushrooms, farro, cheese, and nuts together in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the rest of the ingredients and toss everything together until well coated. Taste and adjust salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper as desired.
Serve cool or at room temperature. It also holds well in the refrigerator for a week.
*This is my interpretation of a recipe from Food 52
Posted in Pinot Noir, Recipe | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on May 29, 2014
Australia is a huge wine producing country whose depth is apparent in both the assortment of varietals they can grow well as well as the styles they’re made in. For years our shores were inundated with mostly lower end Australian wines, often in the form of overripe Shiraz. As a result, the bounty from Australia is significantly broader than a lot of wine lovers realize. All across the Unites States a larger and larger swath of terrific Australian wines are filling our shelves. It’s a great time to try some interesting Australian wines; here are six recent releases that I recommend. To read all about them, head over to The Daily Meal.
Posted in Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Syrah/Shiraz, Viognier, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on April 1, 2014
What do you think of when New Zealand Wine is mentioned? I bet your answer is sauvignon blanc, which is no surprise as it makes up a very large percentage of their crop. So try to imagine New Zealand’s wine identity without sauvignon blanc. It’s hard to do right? Well I recently had dinner with Bill Spence, a man who can imagine just that. It was Bill and his brother Ross who first planted sauvignon blanc commercially in New Zealand back in 1969. A few years later in 1974 they released the first ever commercial vintage of sauvignon blanc in New Zealand. Here’s a look at two wines from Matua that are available in the United States right now and represent excellent values. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest…
Posted in New Zealand, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 31, 2014
Oregon has become a go to destination for those seeking genuine expressions of Pinot Noir. Producers of all shapes and sizes are based there making similarly wide ranging wines. Elizabeth Chambers Cellar is a boutique winery focused on Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. They make several small lot single vineyard wines. They have also just released their first wine into national distribution, a Willamette Valley Cuvée. Even with this somewhat larger production wine they are still a very small winery at only 3,500 total cases. Here’s a look at the inaugural release of their newly launched wine.
The Elizabeth Chambers Cellar 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvée Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced at two vineyard sites. Most of the grapes came from the Freedom Hill Vineyard, the balance from the Lazy River Vineyard. Barrel aging took place over 10 months, largely in previously used oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $32. Wild strawberry, leather and bits of black plum are prominent on the cheerful nose of this 2011 Pinot Noir. Firm black fruit flavors dominate the palate; these are dotted with interspersed bits of red fruit. Plum, cherry and raspberry are the most prominent of these characteristics and they’re accompanied by wisps of nutmeg. Black tea, minerals, cinnamon and a bit of red clay are all part of the long, lush finish. Firm acid and soft, sweet tannins provide nice structure.
This is a delicious and well priced Pinot Noir. It’s ready to drink now, particularly when decanted for about an hour, but will age well over the next 4-6 years. Proportionate, accessible, food friendly Pinot Noir loaded with varietal character is rarely ever inexpensive. This example from Elizabeth Chambers Cellar is a really good value. While it may not represent an everyday drinking price for everyone, it’s a wine most can at least reach to from time to time. If you enjoy well made Pinot Noir, here’s a new entry to try. This release hits my Pinot Noir sweet spot and makes tasting the rest of their portfolio something I need to do.
Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | Tagged: Willamette Valley | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 18, 2014
The 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 »