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 February 23, 2014
A few weeks back I was at the Australia Today Trade Show in New York City. While there, I had the opportunity to sample a wide array of wines coming out of Australia. Most of them were current releases, in a few cases there were some older vintages being showcased during a sit down seminar. Most obvious when tasting a wide swath of Aussie releases is the diversity and breadth of the offerings. This is true both in terms of grape varietals and style of finished wines. If overripe Shiraz is your only image of Australian wine, you’re in for a stunning and pleasant surprise. There are wines of all shapes and sizes being made in Australia. Here’s a look at a couple of selections from the event that really stood out.
Running With Bulls 2012 Tempranillo - This wine from the Barossa Valley and it sells for around $17. Aromas of violets and plum leap from the effusive nose of this wine. Cherry characteristics lead a grab bag of warming red fruits and spices on the plate of the Running With Bulls Tempranillo. The finish is above average in length and persistent. Red fruits continue along with bits of earth and leather. This is a well balanced wine that will excel with hard cheeses and pretty much anything that comes off of your grill. It’s a solid example of Tempranillo that shows how adaptable this varietal can be to a region like the Barossa Valley which is so different from its more native Rioja.
St Hallett Old Block 2010 Shiraz - This Barossa Valley Shiraz sells for around $80. This Shiraz shows off a deep, dark hue that is stunning in the glass. Violets and spice lead a welcoming nose. The palate is succulent and juicy. It’s layered with black plum, black raspberry, and cassis. Minerals and earth lead a dense, structured finish that has great length and depth. Black fruits continue their prominence along with pepper and bits of dusty cocoa. This is a classic example of Shiraz; it’s loaded with bold, fruity flavor. Pair it with equally bold, full flavored foods.
Peter Lehmann 1999 Stonewell Shiraz - This Shiraz is a library selection and as such isn’t widely available anymore. However it is more than worth mentioning because it showcases the ability of Australian wines in general and Shiraz in particular to age well under the right conditions. Those conditions of course include the right vintages as well as stylistic choices made when picking grapes and producing the wine. A bit of chocolate sauce leads the nose here along with Kirsch Liqueur. The palate is studded with a seemingly endless array of cherry characteristics, both red and black. At 15 years old there are still loads of fruit here and it shows itself off in a rich, powerful way. It’s muscular and shows off earth that goes alongside the fruit, but it’s also controlled in intensity. All of these elements continue through the persistent finish. It would be a brilliant match for pasta with Wild Boar Ragu, or Pot Roast to name a couple of options.
Shadow Chaser 2012 Grenache - This Grenache is from McLaren Vale and it sells for around $15. The fruit came from two vineyards with over 40 years of age on each. After fermentation it was aged entirely in stainless steel tanks prior to bottling. Raspberry, and strawberry aromas fill the nose of this wine. These red fruits continue through the palate where they’re joined by bits of red cherry and a copious amount of spices. Cinnamon, clove and black pepper are all in evidence. Rhubarb, sour cherries and glycerin notes all emerge in the finish which has above average length for the price category. Grenache can make some of the food friendliest wines in the world. This example certainly fits that bill. It’ll pair with a wide array foods and it’s a terrific value as well.
These wines represent a tiny window into some of the great things being done in Australia today. The breadth and variety is very impressive. There are offerings at every conceivable price point coming out of Australia that represent solid or better values. If you haven’t had any Australian wines in awhile, now is a good time to dive back in, we’re seeing greater diversity on US shelves than ever before.
Posted in Australia, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz, Tempranillo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on February 11, 2014
When it comes to wines in the value category I’m looking for things that have wide appeal, easy drinkability and solid varietal character. In general I’m thinking about wines that will go over well in large gatherings, and have curb appeal. Often times I feel that blends are particularly good for these settings. Here’s an offering I just tried from Australia that hits the mark for me.
Bailey’s of Glenrowan 2012 19 Crimes Red Wine Blend was produced from fruit sourced in South Eastern Australia. This wine is a blend of Shiraz (mostly) with some Durif (Petite Sirah) added in. After fermentation this offering was aged in French oak barrels for just about 6 months. This wine most often sells for $10. Red cherry aromas dominate the generous and ebullient nose of this 2012 blend. The palate is simply stuffed with a mélange of ripe, berry-pie filling notes. Red and black raspberry, cherry and blackberry are all present and accounted for. Bits of cinnamon and black pepper spice provide a nice accompaniment to all the glorious fruit flavors. The finish, which has nice length, features cranberry, hints of sweet chocolate, and a touch of a mineral component. 19 Crimes is very tasty all by itself. That said, it will also serve as a good accompaniment to a host of casual hand foods such as burgers, pizza, ribs and the like.
Whether you’re attending a party where you want to bring a couple of bottles of wine that will win over a crowd or you’re looking for a tasty house wine to purchase a case of, 19 Crimes might be just what you’re looking for. If an easygoing red with good Shiraz character and a nice dollop of darker elements from Durif sounds appealing, grab a bottle of 19 Crimes and indulge. For around $10 the risk / reward factor is high.
Posted in Petite Sirah, 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 October 23, 2013
Stickybeak is a California based winery that sources grapes in a host of regions such as Napa, Sonoma and Monterey. They have now widened their reach by making a wine with fruit sourced in Italy. These particular grapes come from the 40 year old Cerreto Guidi vineyards located in Tuscany. Here’s a look at this Italian blend.
The Stickybeak 2011 Toscana was produced from a blend of Sangiovese (85%), Merlot (10%) and Syrah (5%). The Sangiovese and Merlot were both sourced in Tuscany with the Syrah coming from Maremma which is close by. Wild yeasts were used for fermentation which took place over roughly 15 days. Each varietal was aged separately over 18 months in entirely French oak. Blending occurred prior to bottling. This wine is finished in screw cap and has a suggested retail price of $20. Violet and red cherry aromas light up the nose of this Tuscan blend. Strawberry, cherry, spice, and vanilla bean are all in play throughout the palate which has nice depth. Leather, cherry, raspberry and black peppercorn flavors all show up in the finish which has above average length. This wine really shines when paired with food. Anything with red sauce on it will work well. I drank it with homemade pizza and it was memorable and delicious combo.
A lot of wines are looking for your attention and your wine dollars in the $20 or under category. Here’s an example that shines with food. It has excellent Sangiovese character at the forefront with the Merlot providing a bit of structure and the Syrah some pronounced wisps of sweet berry fruit. It’s terrific now and will drink well over the next 5 years. This is a very solid value.
Posted in Blends, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 27, 2013
In general people love Red Blends. Well when they’re tasty of course. There are all sorts of styles out there but the ones I’m specifically talking about today are the kind that are well priced, made for a wide audience and generally available. These have a found a big following with different kinds of wine lovers. To the novice Red wine drinker they can be easy to drink and appealing. To the seasoned wine drinker they offer something tasty and easy on the budget that will satisfy a lot of different taste buds. Murphy-Goode has a new blend called Homefront Red. For every bottle of this wine sold Murphy-Goode will doncate 50 cents to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides emergency and financial assiustance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. With that in mind here’s a look at the wine.
The Murphy-Goode 2011 Homefront Red was produced from fruit sourced throughout California. This offering blends together Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. This wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak. It was recently released and is available nationally. 50,000 Cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $15. Blackberry and raspberry aromas light up the nose of this wine along with a little hint of anise. The palate is loaded with berry fruit flavors such as black raspberry and spices galore. Red Cherry is present as well and leads to the finish which has wisps of sweet chocolate and black pepper. Homefront Red will pair well with a pretty wide array of foods. It will be particularly good with casual grilled foods.
Good cause, good wine, good price, a win all around. Pick up a bottle or two for your next BBQ or casual get together with friends. Homefront Red is sure to please a broad array of palates. And by doing so you’ll also be helping a good cause.
Posted in Blends, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 12, 2013
European wine can be intimidating to wine drinkers for a variety of reasons. Those with an interest in wine but who aren’t total geeks about it don’t necessarily know the nuances of labeling and what might be in a particular bottle due to it generally listing region as opposed to varietal content. Stylistically many old world wines are often subtler than their new world counterparts and it can take time for palates to come around to the layered charms of those often elegant offerings. In contrast to all of that Domaines Paul Mas from the Languedoc region of France has some releases that are labeled in such a way that even the budding wine lover can easily discern contents. Additionally they are making wines that bridge the gap in style between the old and new worlds. Here’s a look at three of their current releases.
The Paul Mas 2011 Estate Pinot Noir is a single vineyard effort. All of the fruit for this wine came from their St. Hilaire Vineyard located in the Languedoc Region. This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. After maceration the fruit was fermented in a temperature controlled environment for approximately 9 days. Aging took place over 6 months in stainless steel, followed by 2 months in bottle prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $14. Aromas of Strawberry and red cherry fill the nose of this Pinot Noir along with secondary characteristics such as mushroom. Those red fruit characteristics carry through the palate which is towards the more substantial side for Pinot Noir. Minerals, spice and earth are all in strong evidence on the finish which has good length. Medium tannins and zippy acidity lend to a nice backbone and structure here. This is a Pinot from the old world that shows off new world flavors while still being proportionate.
The Paul Mas 2011 Estate Malbec is a single vineyard wine. All of the fruit for this selection was sourced at the Gardemiel Vineyard. This is a 100% varietal offering. This wine is available throughout the country and has a suggested retail price of $14. This Malbec has a really lifted nose with super expressive aromatics. Floral characteristics and deep, dark plum are both part of the equation. The palate is fruit driven but elegant and quite proportionate. Dark fruit flavors abound and are joined by a copious amount of spice. The finish is generous and velvety in nature with continued lush fruits and bits of earth as well. Firm acidity keeps things in check here. Soft tannins help this go down easy. This is a very expressive example of Malbec loaded with layers of fruit. This wine will pair well with roasted meats and hard cheeses to name a few good partners.
The Chateau Paul Mas 2011 Clos de Savignac was produced from fruit sourced at a single vineyard within Languedoc. This offering blends together Mourvèdre (50%), Syrah (30%), and Grenache (20%). This selection has a suggested retail price of $27. Aromas of violets and white pepper lead the nose of this blend. Blackberry and blueberry play key roles on the palate with black raspberry present as well. Black cherry and rhubarb characteristics emerge on the finish along with leather, espresso and baker’s chocolate. Firm, chewy tannins and acidity are present here. This blend of three classic varieties has substantial depth of palate and generous length and overall complexity for its price point. In its youth this wine will pair best with substantial foods.
This is a distinct trio of wines from a couple of different tiers in the Domaines Paul Mas line that shares some similarities. Each of the wines is balanced and proportionate. These are grapes that have thrived in France for years but the style here tilts towards the new world while not quite tipping all the way over. They’re eminently drinkable, food friendly and well priced for the quality they represent. Both the Pinot Noir and the Malbec are delicious now and will drink well for the next several years. The Clos de Savignac is a touch on the young side right now. Decanting it for an hour or so is recommended for immediate consumption. However patience will be rewarded. Lay it down for 5 or so years and it will be even more expressive and lovely. These wines are well worth seeking out. In particular if you’re drinking a lot of new world wines and are looking for a bridge back to the old world, these will get you there rather deliciously.
Posted in Grenache, Malbec, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 12, 2013
Hecht & Bannier was founded in 2002 by Gregory Hecht and Francois Bannier. They set themselves up in the style of traditional French Negociants with a goal of creating reference point releases in each region they produce wines from. The latest additions to their portfolio are a couple of wines from Provence. Here’s a look at them.
The Hecht & Bannier Côtes de Provence 2012 Rosé was produced from a blend of Grenache (45%), Cinsault (40%) and Syrah (15%). The grapes utilized were sourced at a variety of vineyards, some in the foothills of Montagne Sainte-Victorie and others high altitude vineyards of Haute-Provence. The fruit was picked overnight during cooler hours to assure the preservation of freshness. This wine has a suggested retail price of $18. The light salmon hue of this offering is both beautiful and immediately striking. Engaging floral characteristics emerge from the nose. The palate is fruity, spice, dry, lithe and absolutely lovely. Cherry, strawberry, bits of orange zest and white pepper are all in play from the first sip through the above average finish. This wine goes down easily and it also has the depth and complexity to keep things interesting. It’s really a super appealing wine that you’re going to want to buy a few bottles of as they disappear quick once they’re open.
The Hecht & Bannier 2009 Bandol was produced from a blend of Mourvèdre (80%), Grenache (10%) and Cinsault (10%). After harvesting and fermentation the wine spent 20 months aging in large oak foudre; an additional six months in cement vats followed prior to bottling. This red blend has a suggested retail price of $38. Blackberry, toast and vanilla bean aromas fill the nose of this 2009 red blend. The palate is big and burly, loaded with brawny red and black fruit flavors like blueberry and rhubarb. Spices such as nutmeg and black pepper are present as well as an undercurrent of minerals. Espresso notes and bits of baker’s chocolate emerge on the finish which has excellent length. Leathery tannins and firm acidity are part of this wine’s solid structure. This will pair well with full flavored foods. For best results decent this offering for about 90 minutes so it can express all of its charms.
These wines from Hecht & Bannier represent both solid values which provide plenty of drinking pleasure. Equally as important they’re also fine and genuine representatives of Provence.
Posted in Blends, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
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 »
Posted by Gabe on May 21, 2013
There are certain wines that hit my desk one vintage after another. It’s generally interesting and instructive to taste a new vintage of a wine to find out about if it’s as good, better or not as good as a previous example. We all have things we love a little more than most and for me excellent dry Rosé is near the top of my list. For several years now Cornerstone Cellars has been making a beautiful Rosé under their Stepping Stone imprint. It’s become one of my favorite new world Rosé’s and a wine I can’t wait to sample each year.
The Stepping Stone by Cornerstone 2012 Corallina Rosé was produced using Napa Valley fruit sourced in the Oak Knoll District. This wine is 100% Syrah. After fermentation this wine spent 5 months in previously used French oak Barrels. Just more than 400 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $20. The gorgeous light pink hue of this wine stands out immediately as you pour it. The nose on this Rosé is like a bowl of fresh, red fruits; wild strawberry and cherry aromas are of particular note. Red fruit flavors star through the palate. Corallina is perfectly dry with engaging, fruity flavors. Savory spices emerge on the finish which has excellent length. In short this wine is lovely, refreshing and delicious. Pair it with light foods or drink it on its own.
The 2012 vintage of this wine is more of the same in the best way possible. It’s another tremendous example of top shelf new world Rosé. It’s totally dry and loaded with engaging fruit and spice flavors. Most importantly perhaps it seductively keeps drawing you back to the glass for additional sips. Before long the entire bottle is gone. If you love dry Rosé, as I do, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on this wine.
Posted in Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »