Gabe's View

Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Azienda Agricola Ascevi Luwa – 2012 Pinot Grigio D.O.C. Collio

Posted by Gabe on February 21, 2014

Pinot Grigio is a grape that might confuse some people. On the one hand it’s very popular. On the other hand most of the wines spiking Pinot Grigio sales in the United States are at best anonymous and at worst just horrible. The thing is, Pinot Grigio can and does produce lovely wines of distinction. This can be true in various parts of the world, but nowhere more prominently than certain parts of Northern Italy. Here’s a look at one that comes from a small family producer in Friuli.

The Azienda Agricola Ascevi Luwa 2012 Pinot Grigio D.O.C. Collio was produced entirely from fruit sourced in the namesake region. This is a hilly area of Friuli which sits near the border of Slovenia. This offering is 100% Pinot Grigio and the fruit was harvested by hand. Fermentation took place over 20 days in a temperature controlled environment. Both fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel tanks. Bottling took place after approximately 6 months. 1,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18.99. White flower aromas are joined by bits of Lychee fruit on the expressive nose of this 2012 Pinot Grigio. The palate is loaded with ripe, yellow delicious apple flavors. Hints of lemon zest are present as well along with a nice roundup of spices such as white pepper and a hint of vanilla bean. Tart, green apple flavors emerge on the finish along with limestone, graphite and wisps of tangerine zest. Firm acidity lends to the refreshing and crisp nature of this wine.

Pair this Pinot Grigio with entrée salads, roast chicken, pork loin, or soft cheeses to name a few options. This wine boasts excellent varietal character and plenty of charm. It stands out from the pack because it is quite clearly Pinot Grigio. If you’re tired of spending $20 plus dollars on “Pinot Grigio” that is barely identifiable as wine let alone the named grape (regardless of how famous the name of the Winery is) drink the Ascevi Luwa 2012 Pinot Grigio instead. You’ll spend less and be rewarded with a far greater wine. It’s hard to imagine they’re made using the same grape. This small production wine from a family winery is exactly what I’m looking for in Pinot Grigio. Pass up the over-priced grape juice labeled Pinot Grigio and drink Ascevi Luwa 2012 Pinot Grigio, you can thank me later.

Posted in Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Loveblock – 2011 Pinot Noir – Central Otago – New Zealand

Posted by Gabe on February 15, 2014

For most people Sauvignon Blanc is the primary grape that comes to mind when New Zealand is mentioned. And with good reason, they produce quite a bit of it. Not to mention that they also offer a lot of stunning examples, seemingly at every imaginable price point. Pinot Noir however has been coming on strong for awhile now, and who knows, perhaps someday we’ll think of New Zealand for Pinot first. Here’s an example I just tasted that really made me sit up and take notice.

The Loveblock 2011 Pinot Noir was produced entirely from one vineyard. Someone’s Darling is a 20 acre block located above the mountains of Central Otago in New Zealand. Five clones of Pinot Noir are planted there. The vineyard is sustainably farmed and accredited as such in New Zealand (SWNZ). The grapes were machine harvested and de-stemmed. They had a 5 day cold pre-soak prior to being inoculated with yeast and undergoing fermentation. This wine most often sells for right around $30. Mushroom, leather, red cherry and bits of earth are all present on the expressive nose of this 2011 Pinot Noir. Wild Strawberry characteristics are joined by red and black cherry, along with rhubarb as well as cinnamon and black pepper on a somewhat weighty palate that is studded with appealing flavors. The finish is lingering and impressive in length with mineral notes, earth and hints of sour cherry. If you love good Pinot Noir that speaks of its origins, this wine is for you. It’s impeccably balanced and has firm, racy acidity. Loveblock 2011 Pinot Noir is delicious all by itself. However it’ll pair well with lots of food choices. Anything with mushrooms, pork dishes, and Pasta Bolognese are just a couple of options.

So while Valentine’s Day may have passed I assume we all still have time for love. If so Loveblock 2011 Pinot Noir is a good choice to keep you warm and cozy for the (hopefully) fading days of winter. Pinot Noir is a varietal I’m personally very finicky about. There are unfortunately too many examples that don’t acquit themselves very well. Sometimes they taste like almost anything but Pinot in fact. Thankfully this isn’t the case here. This is a beautiful expression of Pinot Noir that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for anything else. The fruit is a touch darker in spots than typical perhaps, but Loveblock is a delicious, well made example of Pinot Noir. It should also be mentioned that it’s being sold at a fair price when the quality and depth of this offering is taken into account. Good Pinot Noir is rarely (if ever) cheap. Here’s one that, while not cheap, is worth every penny. If you’re drinking it now, decant it for an hour or so. Otherwise it’ll hold for the next 4-5 years.

Posted in New Zealand, Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Bailey’s of Glenrowan – 2012 19 Crimes Red Wine Blend

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 »

Fortant 2012 Coast Select Muscat / Gilles Louvet Mon Pré Carré 2012 Marselan

Posted by Gabe on February 10, 2014

One of the associations people often have with wine is in regard to price. Some regions are well known for providing value and quality at a variety of price points. Other areas are not necessarily thought of that way by every consumer. This is often true of Old World regions which people sometimes associate with higher cost wines. The truth though is that just about every country has regions that offer good values. France for instance has numerous areas that can offer plenty of nice, value priced wines. However due to the numerous classic, higher end wines that have traditionally gotten most of the attention, people’s thoughts aren’t always tuned into the value priced selections that are also available. With that in mind here’s a look at a couple of varietal offerings that I recently tasted and enjoyed immensely.

The Fortant 2012 Coast Select Muscat was produced from fruit sourced in the Languedoc region of France. More specifically all of the vines where fruit was picked for this wine were in vineyards that see coastal influence. This offering is 100% Muscat. The fruit was picked at night and then pressed gently. It was aged for 3 months Sur Lies prior to bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $10.99. Aromas of Lychee and apricot fill the nose of this Muscat; underlying bits of toasted almond are present as well. Mango, nectarine and white peach lead a treasure trove of stone and tropical fruit flavors on display throughout the joyful and expressive palate. White pepper spice and a hint of clove are in play here as well. The finish which is fruity and a bit lusty shows off pineapple, bits of honey and a gentle wisp of chamomile. This French Muscat is incredibly appealing and approachable with enough depth to really keep things interesting. Sip after sip it kept beckoning me back to the glass for more. It will pair well with soft cheeses, entree salads and a broad array of lighter fare.

The Gilles Louvet Mon Pré Carré 2012 Marselan was produced entirerely from organically grown grapes. The fruit all came from the Rhone region. Marselan is a relatively new grape created in France just over 50 years ago. It’s a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. This offering is 100% Marselan. The vines in this case had 20 years of age on them at the time of harvest. Fermentation took place over 7 days in a temperature controlled environment. Aging followed in concrete tanks prior to bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $13.99. The nose of this offering is marked by aromas of red cherry and leather. Strawberry, spices and continued cherry characteristics make up the palate. It is simultaneously easy going, fruity, dry, spicy and a bit savory in nature. Cranberry and dusty bittersweet cocoa notes emerge on the finish which has good length for its price point. This is a medium bodied wine that will be a delight paired with cuisine styles from various parts of Europe. I paired it with a hearty Italian Lentil Stew and it was a killer match.

Both of these wines offer good bang for the buck. They feature lots of character and charm as well as easy drinkability. Each of them is primed to pair with appropriate and diverse food categories too. You don’t have to kill your wine budget to enjoy delicious, well made French wine. These two offerings prove that.

Posted in Marselan, Muscat, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Pina- 2009 Buckeye Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on January 31, 2014

Cabernet Sauvignon comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The folks over at Pina Napa Valley have been farming grapes in the valley for a long, long time. They manage lots of property and have access to many different lots of terrific fruit. The Pina Family uses some of that fruit to make some site specific wines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. Because of their focus on vineyard designate wines, their portfolio really highlights quite a few areas throughout Napa. Here’s a look at one of their current releases.

The Pina 2009 Buckeye Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a single vineyard effort. All of the fruit for this wine came from the namesake vineyard which sits on Howell Mountain. At the time of harvest the vines had between 6 and 12 years of age on them. The Pina family purchased this property in 1996 and released their first wine from it in 2000. This offering is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. After fermentation it spent 20 months aging in entirely French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $85. Aromas of bramble, vanilla bean and crème fraiche emerge from the ready and willing nose of this Cabernet. The palate is studded with dark fruit flavors; black raspberry and black cherry are of particular note. Black pepper spice and a wisp of nutmeg is in play as well. The finish is lush and plush with velvety fruit, espresso and a bevy of earth and roasted espresso notes ringing out with conviction. All of these are joined by a copious amount of spice. The tannins are firm and gripping.

This is a fine example of Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. The rugged, gripping tannins and blast of pure fruit are just part of this Cabernet Sauvignon’s charm. If you’re going to drink this wine now, decanting it for 2 hours or so is recommended. However if you’re patient this will age effortlessly for the next decade and a half. In either case you will be enjoying a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Concha y Toro – 2008 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on January 10, 2014

Puente Alto Vineyard

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

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

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

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

Banging Bubbly for New Years Eve

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 »

Davis Bynum – 2011 River West Chardonnay / 2011 Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir / 2011 Jane’s Vineyard, Garfield Block Pinot Noir

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 »

Gabe’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Posted by Gabe on December 17, 2013

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

Wines:

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

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

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

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

Spirits:

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting Black Stallion Winery on Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail

Posted by Gabe on December 13, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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