About 10 days ago, I attended Spanish Wine Festival, organized by PJ Wine in New York. I can give you a summary of the event using only one word: Overwhelming. It is challenging to produce any kind of detailed summary, because there are literally no bad wines in such a well organized tasting event. There are some wines which will leave you indifferent, then there are some which are great, but not ready, and then there is great amount of wines where you go from “wow” to “wow, this is great” and to “wow” again. Therefore, I will simply give you a report in pictures. No, I didn’t get a picture of each and every wine I tried. All the wines shown below are personal favorites, and they are all highly recommended. And the good thing is that PJ Wine regularly carries most of them.
Well, let’s go.
1999 Vega Sicilia Unico and 2000 Vega Sicilia Unico, from Ribera del Duero. These are the wines to be experienced – balanced and luscious:
2006 Clos Mogador, Priorat – powerful and balanced:
Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia Rioja – 1976 Gran Reserva, 2000 Rosado and 1993 Blanco: 18 years old White Rioja and 11 years old Rioja Rosado – both are fresh and vibrant. Wow! And Gran Reserva – beautiful and mature wine, which will still keep going for a while.
Bodegas El Nido line, including flagship 2006 El Nido – gorgeous layered and balanced, and requiring another 10 years to really blossom:
Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero, including full Malleolus line – wines of incredible balance and elegance:
More Rioja – Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 1995 and 1999, as well as CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva 2001 -
1997 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, 1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 and 2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial – probably the best Rioja wines. Period. Classic and amazing.
Representing Toro: 2007 Numanthia and 2007 Termanthia, silky smooth, balanced and powerful:
More Rioja – 2004 Martinez Lacuesta Reserva, great wine from the great year:
Starring Garnacha from Campo de Borja – 2008 Alto Moncayo and 2007 Aquilon – beautiful, soft and spicy:
Jerez, a.k.a. Sherry is coming back – take a note of it. All Barbadillo wines were simply delicious, and Colosia Amontillado was also right in the league:
I would like to thank PJ Wine folks profusely for arranging such an amazing line up of wines for the event. And if I can make a suggestion, myself (and I’m sure, hundreds of other wine lovers) would really enjoy PJ Wine Grand Tasting event in the Fall – we can only hope that PJ Wine will be kind enough to organize one…
Turns out that yesterday was an [International] Sauvignon Blanc Day, as I learned from the post on Bottle Notes. I wouldn’t call this quite “International” yet – it was originated in 2009 by St. Supéry winery in California, to celebrate one of the main wine-making grapes in the world, Sauvignon Blanc. While St. Supéry run the whole program of seminars and tastings on June 24th, all dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc, this was also a social media event which anyone could join in using Twitter or any other social media outlets.
Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape used in many regions throughout the world. With all due respect to California, I would like to first mention Loire Valley in France, which brings us Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé wines. French Sauvignon Blanc wines typically very dry, with pronounced herbaceous flavors and expressive minerality. The same Sauvignon Blanc grape takes on totally different expression in New Zealand and Chile – very bright, zinging acidity, lots of fresh citrus flavors and some hint of fresh cut grass. Then comes California with yet another take on the popular grape – California Sauvignon Blanc typically much fuller bodied than their counterparts from France or New Zealand, much fruitier and with lesser acidity.
I talked about Sauvignon Blanc wines already a few times on this blog (you can find those posts here and here). This time, I want to talk about some special (and totally unexpected) experience with California Sauvignon Blanc. In general, Sauvignon Blanc wines are not expected to age. They are typically consumed young, may be within 3-4 years of age. When we opened a bottle of 2000 Flora Springs Soliloquy from Napa Valley, a Sauvignon Blanc wine, we didn’t have much [good] expectations – it was more of an experiment – hey, let’s see if this is even drinkable. To our complete surprise, this wine was perfect! Yes, it showed signs of maturity, definitely in the dense dark yellow color of aged white wine, but otherwise, it was fresh, complex, with lots of white fruit and hint of earthiness on the palate, good acidity. 2009 Soliloquy was one of my favorite wines of last year, it was number 9 in my 2010 Top Dozen list, but still I didn’t expect that 11 years old Sauvignon Blanc will taste so good. Drinkability: 8+.
Sauvignon Blanc is perfect summer wine. You really don’t need to wait for 11 years to enjoy it – and even that we are already past Sauvignon Blanc Day, go get a bottle today and toast summer day and great discoveries. Cheers!
Over the course of last week, I found it almost impossible to write even a line in the blog. There is plenty of stuff to write about – Spanish Wine Festival, Bordeaux Vertical Tasting, many great wine encounters – and, nevertheless, not a line. Like someone turned the switch off. Until today, when I happened to share my frustration with my 12-year old son. He asked how my writing was going, and explained that it is not going well, as I can’t produce anything. Ah, writer’s block, he said, nodding understandingly. That’s it. As it often happens in my beloved Fantasy books, once you know the True Name of something or someone, you can control it. Here as well, once I managed to name my inability to write as a “writer’s block”, situation magically became controllable, and here I’m am – or to be more correct, here is the post, which I wanted to write before I will get to the couple of big subjects.
I wanted to talk about life lessons and tasting of the 2004 Chalk Hill Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, coming from very respectful producer in Sonoma County, Chalk Hill. Why life lessons, you ask? Very simple. I pride myself with being a semi-pro when it comes to wine. One of the important traits of such a self-image (in my opinion, of course), should be an ability to take the wines objectively – even if I don’t like the wine, I expect myself to be able to declare that while the wine is not in my style, it is still a good/well made wine.
First sip of this 2004 Cabernet – and I don’t follow that “objective” rule even for a split second – I declare wine as not my style at all and also simply as not being a goods wine. Reason for such declaration? The first sensation I got on the palate was “burnt fruit” – this is not necessarily a standard term, but I use it to describe an over-ripe fruit flavor, which used to be very common in inexpensive Australian Shiraz. Therefore, after the first sip, I declare that I can’t drink this wine at all.
Now, talk about luck – I was actually lucky that the wine, which was opened during a dinner with friends, was not finished completely. Subsequently, I had an opportunity to finish this wine two days after the bottle was opened (bottle was preserved with vacuum pump). As you can see, the word “opportunity” was used to describe the experience, so I guess you can sense some change. Yes, magical transformation took place over those two days. The wine became incredibly elegant, with silky smooth tannins and very gentle, yet powerful mouth-feel. Classic Cabernet fruit flavors, such as black currant and blackberries were present, together with hint of eucalyptus and cedar, in perfect harmony with acidity and tannins. This was truly a magnificent wine, and I was simply upset with my inability to recognize great wine from the get go. Drinkability: 9
Oh well, I learned my lesson, and I also learned to control writers’ block (hope both statements are true). And I will have to prove that I did by not repeating these mistakes again. Of course you will here about it – through this exact blog. Until the next time – cheers!
Still looking for the gift for Dad? Wine is always a great gift, so here are some of recommendations I shared in The Art Of Life Magazine blog post. More…
Once again Stew Leonard’s Wines brought up a excellent opportunity to experience wines (you can find some of the old posts about wine tasting at Stew Leonard’s Wines here). This time, the tasting included wines from Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, California.
Four different wines were presented in the tasting: 2009 Anderson’s Conn Valley Prologue Chardonnay, 2008 Anderson’s Conn Valley Prologue Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank and 2008 Anderson’s Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. There was also wine #5 there, 2006 Anderson’s Conn Valley Eloge, but only available for sale, not for tasting (in large, 3L bottle format, at $599 each).
2009 Anderson’s Conn Valley Prologue Chardonnay had a very nice nose of white fruit, very delicate and inviting. On the palate, it was also nice and light, but too sweet – the elegance was lost behind that unexpected sweetness. Don’t get me wrong – this was still a nice wine, and it was, of course, a dry wine – but it was asking for more acidity. And for my personal taste I like more tannins and butter. Drinkability: 7+
Next was 2008 Anderson’s Conn Valley Prologue Cabernet Sauvignon. As winemaker Todd Anderson, who was present at the tasting, said, “this wine for made for the price point”. The price point ( in that particular store) was $23.99, which would make it a reasonably priced Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was oaky, with some fruit showing up in the background. It will probably improve over the next 4-5 years. Drinkability: 7
Next in the tasting was 2008 Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank red, which is a Bordeaux style blend ( Merlot/Cabernet Franc). This wine actually was quite enjoyable, with good structure and good balance of fruit, acidity and tannins, nice, very delicate earthy notes of the good Bordeaux, and with medium finish. This wine was best in tasting. It will also improve with ageing, probably over the next 10 years or more. Drinkability: 8-
Lat wine in the tasting was 2008 Anderson’s Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grape. This wine had a great nose of black currant and blackberries, and very delicate balance on the palate. At the same time, it was lacking the body and was falling short on the finish. It is quite possible that this wine will improve with age, or may be even with the breathing time, but as it was presented in the tasting, it was lacking the “umph” factor. Drinkability: 7+
Overall, it was great to be able to try good California wines, and if you are not following Stew Leonard’s Wines on Facebook, click here to open their page and become fun – this way you will not miss any opportunities to try some good wines. Until the next time – Cheers!
The subject of Georgian wines is not new on this blog – I wrote about Georgian wines on a number of occasions, and those were good occasions, or may be rather even good surprises (you can find the posts here and here). But after I was lucky enough to attend Georgian Wine tasting in New York City, I don’t want to talk about Georgian wines in terms of “good surprises” anymore – I think Georgian wines are ready to take a permanent high place in the wine’s “who is who” world.
There were about 60-70 wines presented in the tasting. I didn’t have a chance to taste each and every one of them, but among those I tried, there were no bad wines. There were some which were regular, there were some which were good, there were some which were great, and there were a few which were amazing. I think this is a pretty good line up for the wines which I would collectively avoid only about a year ago, as those were mediocre at the best. There is a definite trend up in the quality of the Georgian wines, and I believe a lot of them are ready to meet discerning palates of the wine lovers around the world.
Let me share some of the notes and thoughts, supported by practical examples, of course. I already wrote before about Georgian sparkling wine called Bagrationi. It is produced for more than hundred years, using traditional Méthode Champenoise. This time I had an opportunity to try four different wines, and they all were very good, but 2007 Bagrationi Royal Cuvee was a standout for me. Medium body, very balanced acidity, very round overall.
My next personal favorite was 2010 Chateau Mukhrani Tavkveri Rose. This was one of the number of excellent wines presented by Chateau Mukhrani, and it played to my particular weakness to the Rose wines, especially during summer time. This wine is made out of the indigenous Georgian grape, Tavkveri, one of many other grapes which don’t grow anywhere else (based on information from Wikipedia, there are about 400 varieties growing in Georgia, with less than 40 used for commercial wine making).
It is not easy to produce a rose wine with the character. Lots of available rose wines from all the different regions are virtually indistinguishable – a little bit of strawberry, and little bit of acidity, nothing memorable. The Chateau Mukhrani Rose was totally different – lots of concentrated berry flavors, cranberries and sour cherries, all supported by very balanced acidity and long finish – truly a great Rose.
Another wine from Chateau Mukhrani I have to mention was 2009 Chateau Mukhrani Shavkapito. Another indigenous grape, Shavkapito, and yet another great tasting wine – good dark fruit expression, very round and layered with smooth and approachable tannins.
Next group of wines I have to mention are the wines made by Pheasant’s Tears and Alaverdi Monasteri. What puts these wines aside even in such a distinguished crowd is very unique method of making wines. Both wineries are making wine using qvevri, a clay vessel lined with beeswax, which is used for fermenting and aging of the wine. There were a number of wines presented, both red and whites, all made using qvevri. The white wines were especially unique, as they sported deep yellow color, which is typical for really old white wines, but not for the white wines which are one or two years old. Most of those white wines also showed quite extensive tannins – without being aged in the oak. All of those characteristics ( deep yellow color, tannins) are coming from prolonged fermentation and aging process which takes place in the qvevri, where grapes are crushed and juice stays in the contact with the skins and seeds for the period of up to 6 month. In addition to unique color and tannins, some of the white wines also exhibited Madeira style saltiness, coupled with enough sweetness and acidity to make overall experience very pleasant. This are really unique wines, and you should try to find them – if you can.
Last but not least are the wines which were my absolute favorite in this tasting – Mukuzani and Saperavi red wines produced by Maisuradze wines.
Both 2005 Maisuradze Wines Saperavi and 2005 Maisuradze Wines Mukuzani are produced from Saperavi grape – one of the most popular grapes used in production of the red wines in Georgia. The difference between the wines is that Mukuzani contains only Saperavi grapes actually grown at Mukuzani vineyards. Another difference is aging time in oak – Mukuzani spent 24 month in oak versus 12 month for Saperavi. Both wines are showing tremendous power and structure, and while Saperavi is more approachable, Mukuzani still needs time in the cellar – it will truly shine after another 10 years (at least) in the cellar. Both wines are excellent and definitely worth seeking.
Bottom line is simple – Georgian wines are ready for the prime time. They need a bit of marketing, and a bit of luck, and then we will all have more wines to enjoy. But for now – takes this post to your local wine store, and ask them to get these wines for you – and then let me know what you think.
Looking through the cellar, many bottles have their stories, memories associated with them: “Ahh, I remember I brought this bottle from Italy. And it was raining like crazy when we stopped by that small wine shop in Paris, where this bottle is from. And this one – it was our vacation in Florida (coconut wine, anyone?). Aha, this one I got as a present for my birthday… And those five? I hope they will be as good as the first one was three years ago…”.
Then you stumble upon a bottle on which you go totally blank: “No, I don’t recognize the producer or the winery. Did I bring it from somewhere? Probably not. Where could I buy it? I think I got it as a present?”. Good thing in such a case is the fact that most likely you will have no expectations, so you will take this wine for what it is.
This was exactly my experience with 2004 Albert Bichot Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne – I had the bottle for a while, but how did it end up in my wine fridge, I had (and still have) no idea. Considering the wine was 7 years old, and from unknown ( for me) producer, it could’ve been already gone in terms of quality and pleasure, so the decision was made – the time has come to open the bottle.
This 2004 white Burgundy (100% Chardonnay, of course) happened to be in a perfect shape! Vanilla and touch of spices on the nose, hint of vanilla and lichee fruit on the palate, good acidity – very round and perfectly balanced (Drinkability: 8). Turns out it was a good choice – and having no expectations made it even better experience.
As I mentioned “other grape encounters”, let’s move from France to Italy. I recently had a chance to experience some of my most favorite wines – Amarone. You can read about it in details here – this is my post at The Art of Life Magazine. While the Amarone from Vaona was excellent, I’m still trying to find Amarone which will deliver the same mind-blowing experience I had with 1997 Le Ragose Amarone at the Windows on the World Wine School (read The Art of Life post for the full story) – of course full report is guaranteed if I will be able to find that wine.
And another “grape encounter”, this time moving across the globe east and south, we are getting from Italy to Georgia (and I’m not talking about one of the 50 US States). Few days ago, I was lucky enough to attend Georgian Wine tasting, which I can summarize in one short word: “WOW!”. Extensive report is coming in one of the near future posts, but for now I would like to mention great progress with unique grape count – it increased by 7! In case you are curios, here is the list of grapes and wines:
Chinuri – 2009 Pheasant’s Tears Chinuri Qvevry
Tetra – Alazanis Valley White
Goruli – 2009 Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane
Pink Rkatsiteli – 2010 Alaverdi Monasteri Rkatsiteli Qvevry Rose
Kavkveri – 2010 Pheasant’s Tears Kavkveri Qvevry
Tavkvery – 2010 Pheasant’s Tears Tavkvery Qvevry
Shavkapito – 2009 Chateau Mukhrani Shavkapito
Total grape count now reached 324, and counting. Happy grape discoveries to everyone! Cheers!