Archive

Archive for the ‘Georgian wines’ Category

OTBN 2019 – What a Night!

February 27, 2019 10 comments

Open That Bottle Night (OTBN for short) is my favorite “wine holiday”. Of course, the absolute majority of celebrations in our lives – holidays (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving…), birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, promotions – include wine, but strictly in the supporting role. All the “grape days” are about wine, yes – but typically restricted to a specific grape. OTBN is a special day when the wine is a front and center of our celebration – OTBN is all about showing respect to those special bottles which all need the special, perfectly appropriate moment to be opened. OTBN allows us to say “the perfect moment has arrived” and just open That Bottle.

OTBN 2019 lineup

Almost full line up – few bottles are not shown

While I’m celebrating OTBN for a long time, this year’s event helped me to better appreciate the true purpose of this “holiday”. Okay, I have to say that I never had such a massive amount of wine opened for the OTBN – we went through 14 bottles – and each bottle was special in its own way. But until now, all of my OTBN experiences where strictly positive – the majority of the wines opened for OTBN were either at its peak or well drinkable at the moment but still promising to improve with time. But this year, in addition to absolutely stunning, mature, unparalleled wines we had wines which were either past prime or in the strange sleeping mode (yes, I’m an optimist),  adding a good reason to follow the founding principals of the OTBN and pull the cork from That Bottle now.

Here are my notes for the wines we opened this year, together with a bit of explanation as to what made this wine special and my impressions.

2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatori Metodo Classico Trento DOC (100% Chardonnay)
Why: I was looking at this bottle for a long time. Ferrari makes some of the very best sparkling wines in Italy, and this is their flagship wine. At 18 years, it is a good age for the sparkling wine – and OTBN is a perfect reason to open a wine like that.
How was it: Amazing. Light bubbles, but the balance is amazing, light toasted notes, wow. The wine stayed fresh throughout the whole evening and was one of everyone’s favorites.

2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Puligny-Montrachet Le Trezin, Cote de Beaune
Why: Jim had multiple bottles of this wine and was worrying about Premox (Premature oxidation). Thus he put it out just to try.
How was it: Superb. delicious, classic burgundy, beautiful, elegant, round. Another one of the top choices for everyone.

2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC
Why: This is one of my favorite wines. When it was 10 years old, was literally blown away
How was it: Underwhelming. A touch of petrol, clean, good acidity, bud no bright fruit. Still delicious in its own way – I would gladly drink it any time. But – lucking the “umpf” which was expected… Still have 2 more bottles – will open later on and see.

2014 Damien Laureau Le Bel Ouvrage Savennières AOC
Why: Well, OTBN is an all-inclusive celebration. I rarely drink Savenniers, so it is always fun to experience something new.
How was it: Ok. For the 5 years old Chenin Blanc from the Loire, it was quite decent. Nice white wine – can’t say much more than that.

1996 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva Rioja DOC
Why: why not? Lopez de Heredia is one of the very best Rioja Producers, and their Viña Tondonia Blanco might be one of the best white wines in Spain – at least from point of view of the wines which can age
How was it: A flop. Unless there was a flaw with this particular bottle, this wine was past prime and had no joy in it.

2015 Royal Tokaji The Oddity Hungary (100% Furmint)
Why: Furmit is the grape used in the production of the Hungarian Tokaji wines, some of the very best dessert wines in the world, easily rivaling the best Sauternes. Problem is – it is very difficult to prevent Furmit vineyards from the Noble Rot settling on the grapes – and thus it is rare – and difficult – to produce dry Furmint wine. Here comes The Oddity – dry Furmint wine.
How was it: Very good. Nice, clean, great minerality, balanced well-integrated palate, good acidity. Thank you, Lori, for this delicious find.

Kistler Chardonnay with Glass

No filter – look at the color of this 24 years old Chardonnay

1995 Kistler Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley
Why: Kistler is one of the best Chardonnay producers in California, so this alone is enough to include such wine into the OTBN line up. But then California Chardonnay rarely built to last for so long, so it was definitely the time to open this bottle.
How was it: Amazing. Almonds, apples, still present vanilla, a touch of smoke, good acidity – amazing for 24 years old white wine

2008 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune Arbois Jura
Why: Trying to explain the wine such as Vin Jaune to the uninitiated wine lovers presented an interesting challenge – I failed to explain what “oxidative” means. Anyway, putting this aside – Jura wines are rare. Vin Jaune wines are rare. Jacques Puffeney wines are beyond rare – 2014 was the last vintage which he commercially produced. This wine is absolutely OTBN worthy (thank you, Jim!)
How was it: Amazing. An oxidative nose which was also incredibly attractive, mature fruit, good acidity, elegant, present, delicious wine.

1971 Carretta Nebbiolo

No filter – just look at the color of this wine! Amazing.

1971 Tenuta Carretta Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC
Why: 1971. Need we say more? Yes, the wine of such age is absolutely meant for OTBN.
How was it: Amazing, absolutely amazing. We poured it without decanting. The wine changed dramatically over the course of an hour. My first impressions were: pungent, with clean acidity, mature restrained fruit, still has lots of life left. Wow. About 15 minutes later, the wine totally changed and was the most reminiscent of a nice, concentrated Rosé – cranberries, a touch of strawberries, good acidity, very refreshing. Another 15 minutes made this wine most reminiscent of Jura red, a Poulsard if you will – light, great acidity, a touch of red fruit. Truly an amazing experience. And don’t forget to look at the color of this wine…

1986 Château Bel-Air Lagrave Moulis-en-Médoc AOC
Why: 33 years is a very respectable age for any wine – you really want to ask such wine “how ya doin”
How was it: Wow. Young, beautifully balanced, beautiful Bordeaux, just perfect. In a blind tasting, I would never identify this as a 33 years old wine. Yes, you can call me a failure.

1996 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Léognan
Why: My exact question – why? Only because we could?
How was it: not ready. Needs time, mostly locked up. You would never think that 23 years old Bordeaux is not ready to drink, but it was not.

2004 Château Latour à Pomerol Pomerol AOC
Why: Same as previous wine – really, why?
How was it: Not ready. Closed nose, mostly cherries on the palate, need another 10-15 years.

2006 Telavi wine Cellar Satrapezo Saperavi Kakheti Georgia
Why: One of my most favorite Georgian wines. Limited production, a beautiful example of Georgian Saperavi. Most of the wine lovers are still unfamiliar with Georgian wines, so I really wanted to introduce this wine to the people.
How was it: Excellent. Still tight, beautiful fruit, big wine, could use more time. I was a bit concerned that this wine is reaching its peak – I was wrong. I’m sure another 5 years would do wonders here. Oh well…

2005 Weingut Petri Herxheimer Honigsack Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Pfalz Germany (100% Scheurebe)
Why: For one, it is very appropriate to finish a great wine program with the dessert wine. And then how many of you even heard of Scheurebe? Scheurebe grape is a cross between Sylvaner and Riesling. It is quite rare, so yeah, a perfect choice for OTBN.
How was it: Spectacular. Not only it had great acidity which is essential in enjoyable TBA-level sweet wine, but it also showed a mix of honey and herbs – rosemary, sage, thyme – just an unbelievable concoction and ultimate pleasure in every sip. Thank you, Stef, for this treat.

Obviously, I can’t complain about such an amazing OTBN – however, as you saw, we had our share of disappointment. At the same time, the good greatly overweight the bad – 1971 Nebbiolo, 2001 Giulio Ferrari, 1995 Kistler, 2008 Vin Jaune, 1986 Bordeaux were all personal favorites and I would be glad to experience those wines again at any time.

Now that I told you about our OTBN, how was yours?

Thanksgiving with Smith-Madrone, And a Few More Delights

December 9, 2018 4 comments

Holidays are all about pleasure. The pleasure of the company. The pleasure of food. The pleasure of wine. As the very least, they should be.

Let me tell you about the pleasures of my recent Thanksgiving – in one picture:

Turkey with Smith-Madrone wines

If this would be an Instagram, I could end my post here, but in this blog, I can add a few words, right?

Let’s talk about the wine first. Everyone has their ideas as what is the best Thanksgiving wine. Some talk about how difficult it is to pair any wine with the Thanksgiving table, due to the large variety of dishes and often prevalent sweet flavors (this is not universal, of course). I have a very simplistic view of the wine and food pairing – give me tasty food and good wine, and if they don’t work together – no problems, I’m happy to consume them one by one. Difficult or not, pairing is not the focal point of my Thanksgiving wine selection. I really have only one strong preference for the Thanksgiving wines – they should be all American. Thanksgiving we celebrate here in the USA is all about this country, and so the wine should match that. And thinking about American wines, you understand how easy it is nowadays to have all-American wine experience.

How many of you heard of Napa Valley? Okay, I see that look, this was a stupid question, I know. But let me go on. How many of you heard of Spring Mountain District? Okay, I see your facial expression changing to say “hmmm, I’m not so sure”. And the last question – how many of you heard of Smith-Madrone? Okay, don’t feel too bad, at the end of the day it is one of the about 400 wineries located in the Napa Valley, so of course, one can’t know all of them. But – this is why I’m talking about it – this is the winery you might want to get better acquainted with.

Smith-Madrone is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley, started by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith in 1971. Smith-Madrone property is about 200 acres, with some parts of the vineyards planted more than 100 years ago, all located near the top of the Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The name Smith-Madrone combines the family name with the name of the evergreen Madrone trees, prominently growing at the property. Well, instead of me trying to regurgitate the past and present of the Smith-Madrone winery, let me direct you to this article – it is a good story, well worth a few minutes of your time.

Smith-Madrone wines

When was the last time you had Napa Valley Riesling? If you answered “never”, it could’ve been my answer too – until I discovered this Smith-Madrone Riesling. Riesling is simply not a common grape for the Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone produces the absolutely beautiful rendition of the famous grape. It might be due to the mountain fruit – all the Smith-Madrone vineyards located at the altitude of 1300 to 2000 feet, with slopes reaching 34%. Sustainable dry farming and winemaking practices also play a role, but one way or the other, the 2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (12.9% ABV, $32) was just delicious. varietally correct both on the nose (honeysuckle, a touch of tropical fruit, lemon, apples) and the palate, which was beautifully balanced with golden delicious apples, a touch of honey and acidity. To make me ultra-happy, the Riesling is sported a distant hint of petrol, which is my pet peeve.

2015 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (14.4% ABV, $40, 10 months in French oak) was equally beautiful. Again, the wines of that styling I call in my book “classic”. A touch of vanilla and apples on the nose, a distant hint of butter, continuing with the same vanilla and white apples on the palate. Clean acidity, noticeable minerally undertones, restrained, balanced – a very classic example of “how to do chardonnay right”.

With the risk of sounding very boring and repetitive, I have one more classic wine for you – 2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (13.9% ABV, $52, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, 70% new French oak, 30% one-year-old French oak for 18 months). How classic was this wine? Bordeaux-classic. The mountain fruit was shining, showing great restraint. This was not an exuberant typical Napa Cab – lean, tight, well-structured, with cassis both on the nose and the palate, the wine was very enjoyable now, and it will be equally or more enjoyable in 30 years.

So that was my main wine story on the Thanksgiving day. The rest was about the food – starting the smoker as 9 am in the 21°F weather (about -6°C), and then watching the turkey slowly getting to the right temperature. The silver lining of that cold weather was the fact that instead of 4-4.5 hours in the smoker, it took about 6 hours to get that big bird to the right doneness – and slower cooking results in more tender and more flavorful meat. A glass of Smith-Madrone Riesling was adding to the cooking enjoyment.

After celebrating Thanksgiving at our house, we went to see our close friends in Boston. What I love about that house is that there are always a few of the older wine bottles laying somewhere on the shelf. You never know what you will find in the older bottle, but that is what makes it fun, isn’t it?

The first bottle I opened was 2007 Tishbi Cabernet-Petite Sirah Shomron Israel (12% ABV, 70%  Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah). Judging by the pronounced brickish, almost orange, color, my first thought was “this probably fully turned”. And it was not! Complex nose of dried fruit and herbs was supported by plums and prunes forward, but balanced palate. Good amount of acidity, tertiary aromas – this was a very enjoyable glass of wine. Only one glass, I have to say – by the time I wanted the second, the wine was gone.

Without much thinking, I pulled another wine, realizing later that I opened another wine from the same vintage – 2007 Marani Kondoli Vineyards Saperavi-Merlot Kakheti Georgia (13.5% ABV). This wine couldn’t be more different from the previous 2007 – dark garnet color, not a sign of any aging, tight, fresh, blackberries and blueberries on the nose and the palate, firm, fresh and young. I’m really curious about how much longer this wine could’ve last.

One last wine to mention – 2010 Massandra White Muscat Crimea Ukraine (16% ABV). Massandra winery roots go back to the old Tsar’s Russia in late 1800, but their cellars hold wines from the 18th century (if you are not familiar with Massandra wines, here is an article by Jancis Robinson). Massandra is best known for sweet fortified Muscat wines, like the one we tasted. To me, this 2010 was most reminiscent of a Sherry, and not necessarily an ultra-balanced one. But then the same Jancis Robinson’s article says that Massandra wines require 45-60 for the full maturity, so I guess the wine tasted within the expectations…

Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley, Israel, Georgia, and Ukraine – not a bad wine play for the holiday, what do you say?

Here you go, my friends. I will leave you with some beautiful wines to look for. And how was your Thanksgiving, if you still remember it? Cheers!

Possibly The Best QPR Wines In The World Today?

October 5, 2015 13 comments

Colors of the Chelsea MarketToday, I want to talk about wine and value. “Value” has an interesting meaning in the world of wine – may be as subjective as the concept of a “good wine” itself. To me, the value is not an absolute amount of money one paid for the bottle of wine – if you paid $3, but poured the bottle down the drain after half-finished first sip because it tasted terribly – was that still a “value”? Or was that a pure waste of money? By the same token, if the $20 bottle of wine gave you lots of pleasure in every tiniest drop (including the one you licked of the table), would that be a “good value”? Talking about the “value” of the wine, I prefer to use a proverbial term QPR, so happily adapted by the wine lovers – a Quality Price Ratio (this is what QPR stands for) conveys the “value” concept of wine a lot better than the sheer price itself.

One of the easiest and most straightforward ways to classify and analyze thousands and thousands of wines produced today in the world is by region, as wines from the same geographic area would typically have some similarities. Thinking about all the different wine producing regions in the world, which region do you think delivers the best QPR today? I’m really asking here to think about the region as a whole, rather then individual wines. Yes, you can find delicious Napa reds for $10, but this is rather an anomaly, as on average, you need to spend at least $25 – $30 for a good bottle, so we are definitely not talking about Napa here. Thus the question stands – what is your best QPR wine region in the world?

This question might be more difficult than it seems. Wine regions don’t stand still – they are constantly evolving. As the region becomes better known and more demanded, the price increase often accompanies this rise in popularity – which obviously affects the QPR. I used to consider Greek wines as a great QPR – but many Greek wines are now pushing the $30 boundary, while not consistent in quality – this immediately drives QPR down. I used to think of Israeli wines as a great value – but same thing is happening there, with lots of better wines moving north of $30, and wines under $20 been more of “hit and miss”. My next “go to” wines were Portuguese – but even here I now have a problem – wines under $20 are often only randomly tasty; wines at around $30 and up are consistently excellent, rivaling $100+ wines from the other regions, so in relative terms, they still offer a great value – but probably not the best QPR?

“Knowing what I know now”, the region which I think consistently delivers the best QPR at the moment (!) is Georgia – not the state down south in the US, of course, but an independent country. I always loved Georgian wines, but what prompted this broad statement about QPR was a recent Georgian Wine tasting I attended a week ago at Chelsea Market in New York. Wine after wine was delicious, and priced under $20 – that is a QPR I’m definitely happy about.

You don’t have to take my word for it – you should find a bottle of Georgian wine and try it for yourself. I really hope you did just that last Sunday, October 4th, as it was a #GeorgianWineDay in the social media – and if you actually had Georgian wine, I’m curious to know what it was. In any case, let me share the notes for the wines I tasted at the “Discover Georgia in New York” event at the colorful Chelsea Market. Below are the notes, using the “+” ratings. Pay attention to the prices and corresponding ratings – don’t know what you think, but I think the “QPR” is spelled very clearly across the full range of wines I tasted.

2013 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Rkatsiteli Kakheti, Georgia ($10.99) – +++, very acidic, requires food
2013 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Mtsvane-Kisi Kondoli Vineyards Kakheti, Georgia ($14.99) – +++, excellent, clean, lemon notes, touch of food


2013 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Saperavi Kakheti, Georgia ($11.99) – +++, excellent, simple, an everyday wine, red fruit, crushed berries
2009 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Red Kvareli Special Vicultural area, Kakheti, Georgia ($15.99) – ++++, beautiful, clean, great depth
2012 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Saperavi Kondoli Vineyards Kakheti, Georgia ($18.99, 18 months in oak, starting from fermentation) – ++++, stunning! round and delicious

2007 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Reserve SAPERAVI block Kondoli vineyards, Kakheti, Georgia ($70) – ++++1/2, off the charts, produced only in the best years, complex, round, delicious. Yes, it is $70, and it might be to expensive for an amazing QPR, but you should taste this wine first…


2006 Wineman Cabernet Sauvignon Kakheti, Georgia ($10.99) – ++++, wow!, pick of maturity, dark notes, concentrated – another wow!
2010 Wineman Ikhalto Red Kakheti, Georgia ($12.99, 50% Saperavi, 50% Cabernet Franc) – ++++, wow!, acidity, beautiful wine
2013 Wineman Kindzmarauli Special Viticultural Area Red Semi-Sweet Kakheti, Georgia (12% ABV, $15.99, 100% Saperavi)  – ++++, beautiful, perfectly balanced sweetness


2011 Shalvino Kardenakhi Special Viticultural Area Kakheti, Georgia (18% ABV, $18.99, Blend of Rkatsiteli, Khikhvi, Goruli and Mtsvane) – ++++, made using Solera method, delicious, Pedro Ximenez like with a delicate balance
2013 Telavi Wine Cellar Satrapezo Rkatsiteli Ice Wine Kakheti, Georgia (10% ABV, $29.99 500ml) – +++1/2, beautiful, perfect balance, not overly sweet


2013 Teliani Valley Tsinandali White Kakheti, Georgia ($12.99) – +++, great acidity
2012 Teliani Valley Special Vicultural area Kakheti, Georgia ($17.99) – +++, great acidity, perfect, food friendly


2013 Schuchmann Rkatsiteli White Kakheti, Georgia ($15.99) – +++, touch of sweetness, nice balance
2013 Schuchmann Saperavi Red Kakheti, Georgia ($15.99) – +++, perfect, clean, great balance


2012 Vinoterra Kisi Kakheti, Georgia (13% ABV, $NA, Qvevri fermentation, Oak maturation) – +++, complex, very intense, unusual, thought provoking

What do you think? I understand that QPR is subjective and relative term – first, you have to like the wine, and then everyone’s idea of “value” is different – but I was (once again) blown away by the quality and consistency of what I tasted – I didn’t skip a single wine, those are all the wines which were presented in the tasting. This would make it 16 wines out of 16, which I would gladly drink again. I hope it gives you good frame of reference for my experience.

Thinking about the wines of the world, what would be your top region for the best QPR? And if you tasted any of the Georgian wines, what is your opinion about them? Cheers!

Daily Glass: Wine Happenings – Georgian Wines, New French Discoveries, Australia Grand Experience and more

April 14, 2013 10 comments

Every week (or almost every week) I think that I should start writing a summary post similar to what Jeff at therunkenccyclist does so well – once a week he produces a summary of the wines he had during the past week (here is an example of his recent post), which I think is a great way to round up your experiences.

My “Daily Glass” designation was supposed to be [almost] a daily summary for me, but as you know, things don’t always work in life as we think they should. Nevertheless, the week which is ending today was very “wine eventful” hence I’m sharing those wine happenings with you.

Let me start from 2005 Domaine Lafage El Maset Cotes du Roussillon. I got it at Last Bottle Wines during their last “madness” sale. At $8, you really have nothing to lose, right? Wine arrived about 3 weeks ago, looking good – inviting label, heavy bottle, good punt at the bottom – overall looks quite solid. Before opened the bottle, I went to look for information online – and I didn’t find much except a number of notes on Cellar Tracker, all looking very peculiar. Looks like people  had very sporadic luck with this wine, with only one bottle out of three being drinkable, and another claim of one out of 10 (!).

First thing I didn’t like when opened the bottle was the cork. You see, I love real corks (yes, I had my share of corked wines – but this is not the subject of this post). I’m completely okay with screwtops – I would be surprised to see a screwtop on the bottle of DRC, but in general, I get it – and it makes it easier to open a bottle, especially when you travel. But the type of corks I have a problem with are plastic and synthetic corks. They are hard to pull out, and just look very artificial – they just don’t belong to the wine world, in my opinion. Besides, somehow I think that they have the worst  impact on aging ability of the wine .

This wine was closed with red plastic cork ( you can see it in the picture). Okay, moving along. It is 8 years old wine, how about pop and pour? Pour, swirl, sip – ouch! The feeling of biting into a freshly cut tree brunch. Bitterrrr! My wife had her taste, put the glass down, and politely said “I think it should breath a little first”. Okay, got a decanter, pour half of the bottle in. By the way, the interesting fact is that after that first bitter sip, the wine stayed in my mouth with a very long and rather pleasant (!) finish – probably for the next 10+ minutes. Two and the half hours later… I wish I can tell you the wine magically transformed – no, it became only somewhat better. Dark fruit appeared, tannins became mellower, but the wine was not together – there was no harmony there.

We finished the bottle next day, and it still didn’t improve much more – may be it needed more time? I’m not sure, but I have one more bottle, which I plan to give a little time – will see what will happen. But I also have to tell you that I had one of the most surprising pairings with this wine – as you can guess from the picture, this wine paired excellently (I’m serious) with … cherry preserve! They were literally meant for each other – take a spoon of cherry preserve, sip of this wine – perfect! I never thought of wine and preserve together before – may be I should try it more often? This wine will stay unrated for now, as it is very hard to put a handle on this experience.

DSC_0391 Clos ChanteducNext wine was also sourced from the Last Bottles – 2006 Clos Chanteduc Cotes Du Rhone. I was unable to find good information on this 2006 vintage, current available vintage of this wine is 2010, but I would assume that  the composition stayed about the same, so it should be Grenache/Syrah blend (2/3 Grenache, 1/3 Syrah), a classic Rhone blend. The wine is associated with Patricia Wells, a well known chef living in France. While looking for information about this wine, I found an interesting post about 2009 version in the blog called Wayward Wine – here is a link for you, it is a good reading. Getting back to this 2006 wine, it was rather a typical Cote du Rhone – soft, supple, good mid-palate of plums and cherries – but may be too soft and too supple, it was missing a wow factor. Drinkability: 7.

DSC_0393 Jermann Sauvignon BlancThe next wine I want to mention is 2008 Jermann Sauvignon Blanc Venezia Giulia IGT. Jermann is one of my all time favorite Italian producers – I don’t think I tasted any wines I didn’t like from Jermann. This Sauvignon Blanc was closed with screwtop, and the wine is 5 years old – but it came out clean and round on the palate, with perfect amount of white fruit, some herbal notes, perfect minerality and acidity – very enjoyable by itself and with the food. Drinkability: 8-

Now, let’s get to the subject of this post and talk about Georgian and new French wines I discovered.  Last Friday I stopped at  the tasting at Fairway Market in Stamford, where Michael from importing company called Corus was presenting new Georgina wines.  There were four wines included in the tasting, three of them definitely standouts.

2012 Marani Mtsavane is made out of 100% of indigenous Mtsvane grape – very dry, more reminiscent of Muscadet than anything else, with cutting acidity. Will be perfectly refreshing wine for the summer day, also will be very appropriate every time you will decide to serve oysters. Drinkability: 7+

2005 Wine Man Mukuzani – this wine is made out of 100% Saperavi grapes, also grown in one single place – village of Mukuzani. This wine is made by David Maisuradze, who makes amazing wines – here is my post mentioning couple of his wines I tasted before. When I took a first sip, my first  thought was about dramatic difference this wine had with the 2005 El Maset I just had a few days ago (both wines are from 2005) – silky smooth, perfect dark fruit, cherries, blackberries, round tannins and balancing acidity – overall, a wine of perfect harmony. Drinkability: 8

2009 Wine Man Kinzmarauli – Kindzmarauli is one of the most famous Georgian wines. Because it was so famous before, you can’t even imagine the amount of fake insipid concoction which arrived to US about 10-15 years ago, knowing that Russian ex-patriots will buy anything under that name. When people realized that they had been doped, the wine lost its appeal and now have to slowly work up its reputation. Kindzmarauli is also made out of 100% Saperavi grapes, but it is semi-sweet. The fake Kindzmarauli wines had nothing but the sugar in them. When you taste this 2009 Kindzmarauli, you actually first get the perfect dry grape underpinning, and then the residual sweetness comes in. Excellent wine to serve with cheese – I think it might even beat Port when served next to Stilton. Drinkability: 8-

Now, for my French discovery  – it might not be a discovery for you, but it is a new line of wines which are just being imported to Connecticut. The wines are made by Domaine Laroque in the area called Cité de Carcassonne, a part of Langueoc-Rossillion (Cité de Carcassonne has a status of IGP).

2012 Domaine Laroque Sauvignon Blanc Cite de Carcassonne – in a blind tasting, I would definitely say that this is a restrained version of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Perfectly bright, with hint of grapefruit and lemon zest, refreshing, uplifting – make sure you have enough on hand for your summer entertainment – or you will deal with some upset guests. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Domaine Laroque Rose de Cabernet Cite de Carcassonne – nice, clean Rose, good amount of strawberries, good acidity. Drinkability: 7

2011 Domaine Laroque Cabernet Franc Cite de Carcassonne – this was a “wow” wine. Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite single-grape wines, which are so hard to find. This is two notches up most of the Loire stuff – I guess it is much closer to the best of Bordeaux and Calidornia – prefect dense red fruit, good minerality and herbs, firm structure, supple tannins and overall very balanced. This is what I call a “dangerous wine” – once you start drinking it, it is almost impossible to stop. Drinkability: 8

Are you tired of me yet? Okay, good – I have two more wines to tell you about.

DSC_0395 Sarah's Vineyard2001 Sarah’s Vineyard Chardonnay Estate Reserve Santa Clara Valley – I got it as Bin Ends in Massachusetts last year. The unfortunate part – this wine was past prime. Well, it was more like a nice sherry – dark yellow color, nicely oxidized. I was able to finish the bottle, but this was not an amazing experience by all means. Mostly you could taste almonds, and that was about all you could find on the palate. I will not rate this wine as it would be simply not fair.

Last, but not least at all – an amazing Aussie experience.

1999 Grant Burge Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia – from the very first smell, the expectation was that a “wow” wine is ahead. Perfect dark fruit on the nose, a whiff of chocolate. And the very first sip confirmed that “wow” – blackberries, cherries  and cassis, dark chocolate, cocoa, eucalyptus, touch of roasted flavors, perfectly firm and structured. Pronounced acidity, supporting tannins – all perfectly balanced. This was an outstanding glass of wine (it was my one and only bottle, sigh). By the way, you should read an interesting story behind the name of this wine – I don’t want to retype it, hence the picture of the back label below.Drinkability: 8+

That’s all I have for you for today. What was your best wine experience of the week? Have a great week ahead and cheers!

Re-post: Best Hidden Secrets of The Wine World: Wines of Georgia

January 17, 2013 9 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

We are continuing our “secrets” discovering journey, this time moving few thousand miles mostly east of Veneto, Italy, which was our last stop. Now we are in the fertile mountainous region called Caucasus. To be more precise, our destination is Georgia, a small country with a rich history (the subject of Georgian Wines was already discussed in this blog, but recent encounter with Georgian Wines convinced author that this subject is worth talking about again).

For the sake of this blog, we will of course focus on the part of Georgian history which relates to wine. For beginners, Georgia is widely considered a cradle of wine making. According to Wikipedia, wine production started in Georgia more than 8,000 years ago. With all due respect to so called “old world” of wine, that beats France, Italy and other European countries by about 7,000 years.

Of course, truth to be told, multiple thousand years of history don’t translate directly into today’s advantage. For instance, majority of the countries which existed thousands years ago are not even remembered today. If everything goes well, that long history can only translate into traditions – good or bad, but traditions are just what they are: “typical ways of conducting certain activity”, or “an inherited or established way of thinking, feeling, or doing”, according to the definition from Merriam-Webster.

Fast forward to the middle of 20th century, and Georgian wine making traditions came under attack by soviet regime and Georgian wine making industry became literally non-existent. Fast forward once again, to the last decade of the 20th century, and traditions came back into play, helping to re-born Georgian wine industry. Of course, once former soviet union collapsed and Georgia became independent, freedom had a “drugging” effect. Tremendous amount of mediocre (at the best) wine was produced, all in attempt to “get rich quickly”. This situation backfired, and Georgian wines went into “ignore” category without any chance to rise to prominence (disclaimer: these are observations from US-centered wine market).

Luckily, traditions, based on real, rich history and pride came to the rescue. Fast and greedy mostly disappeared, and real wine makers and businessman took their place. Those thousands years of history and traditions became multiplying force for skills, craftsmanship and ambitions, and now started bringing us world-class wines. It is still very difficult to buy good Georgian wines in US, you have to really know where to get it, but hopefully this situation will change. Hmmm, may be we don’t need that to change? Let’s keep it secret, so those in the know can continue enjoying first-growth Bordeaux quality wines at one hundredth of the price?

Bagrationi_SparklingTime to talk about wines – after all, we need to put some substance behind the nice words. Let’s start with… Champagne? Err, Sparkling wine, of course, as Champagne can only come from Champagne. Enters Bagrationi 1882, which makes sparkling wines using traditional “Méthode Champenoise” for more than 100 years. Round, soft and creamy, with perfect acidity, bright and refreshing, this sparkling wine will successfully compete with any of the actual Champagnes and other sparkling wines. In the blind tasting (non-professional), 2007 Royal Cuvee was the best out of the 8 sparkling wines, including classic Champagnes (you can read about it here).

Pheasant's_Tears_winesMoving along, let’s talk about some of the most unique wines I ever had a chance to taste. Pheasant’s Tears winery (as well as some others), produce wines using thousands-years old (talk about traditions) technology – the grapes are crushed and fermented for prolonged period of time in the clay vessels called Qvevri. The resulting wines, made from different indigenous grapes, such as Kisi, Rkatsiteli, Tavkveri, Saperavi and others, are very different from most of other wines. Both whites and reds show very nice tannins which come from prolonged contact with skin and seeds (no oak aging whatsoever), as well as great level of complexity somewhat similar to good Madeira. This wines should really be experienced, as words can’t do them enough justice.

Maisuradze_winesLast for this post, but not least, I want to mention true world-class winemaker-made classic wines. You know, those wines which are happily associated with winemaker or lead producer, such as Michel Roland,  Christian Moeux, Helen Turley, Andy Erickson ( Screaming Eagle) and many others. These wines are made by David Maisuradze out of the classic Georgian red grape called Saperavi. Both Mukuzani and Saperavi are truly amazing wines, with perfect layered dark fruit on the palate, perfect structure, powerful tannins and excellent balance. 2005 Mukuzani shows more tannins at this point (it was aged for 24 month in the oak), and while it can be definitely enjoyed right now, it needs another 10-15 years to truly shine. Get it, if you can!

Georgian wines came back to the wine lovers to take the place they really deserve, the product of love and obsession supported by deep roots and traditions. While not easy to find, they are definitely worth looking for. Make an effort, find the bottle, try it, and send me a “thank you” note later on, as I’m sure you will be inclined to do. To the wonderful wine discoveries!

Wines of Georgia: You Have To Experience It To Believe It

June 9, 2011 5 comments

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 maybe 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 winemaking).

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 a 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 Monastery. What puts these wines aside even in such a distinguished crowd is a 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 a 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 months. 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. These 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 the 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 the aging time in oak – Mukuzani spent 24 months in oak versus 12 months 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.

%d bloggers like this: