Archive

Archive for the ‘wine’ Category

Fall in Montefalco: Revisiting Beauty of Montefalco Rosso and Power of Sagrantino

September 27, 2016 4 comments

montefalco-winesHistory of the grapes is full of mistaken identity cases, survival fights, global dominance going nearly extinct – yes, these are the grapes I’m talking about, not people. There are also “lost and found” stories, as in the case of Sagrantino, the Italian grape from Umbria. Sagrantino was a very popular grape for more than 500 years – until it practically disappeared in the 1960s, and made almost miraculous comeback due to the effort of the few passionate winegrowers.

My first meaningful encounter with Sagrantino wines took place 3 years ago, when I participated in the virtual tasting of the wines from Montefalco – Sagrantino’s growing region in Umbria. I don’t want to repeat everything I learned about Sagrantino the last time, so please take a look here for some interesting fun facts about Sagrantino (for instance – did you know that Sagrantino has the highest polyphenol concentration among all commonly used red grapes?).

Two groups of red wines produced in Montefalco. One is Montefalco Rosso DOC, where it is required that the wine would have at least 70% of Sangiovese, up to 15% of Sagrantino and up to 15% of the other red grapes (however, these percentages are changing). The second one is Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG, with the wines made out of 100% Sagrantino grapes. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG also includes production of the sweet Passito wines – as you would expect, after harvest, the grape bunches are left to dry on the mats for at least 2 month, before pressing and fermenting together with the skins. High tannin content helps to alleviate the sweetness of the wines.

Our tasting, very appropriately called “Fall in Montefalco”, was conducted in the virtual format, with the group of 9 winemakers presenting their wines remotely from Italy. Live Q&A discussion was accompanying the tasting via the Ustream channel (take a look at the live feed to the right).

Fall in Montefaclo Virtual Tasting

Fall in Montefaclo Virtual Tasting

Fall in Montefaclo Virtual Tasting

Few interesting facts from this presentation: There are currently 700 hectares (1750 acres) of Sagrantino planted in Montefalco, and there are 70 wine producers in the region. Current production of Montefalco Sagrantino is about 1.3M bottles, and Montefalco Rosso is about 2.2M. Someone asked one of my favorite questions of all the producers in the studio – what is the oldest vintage of Sagrantino you have in your cellars? Going around the room, this is what I was able to capture (as usual, it is hard to follow presentation and chat with people at the same time) – the oldest vintage Custodia has in the cellar is 2003, Arnaldo Caprai still has 1979 Sagrantino; Tabarrini’s oldest is 1996 and then 1999.

Before I leave you with my tasting notes I can say that overall, the wines in the tasting showed nice improvement, comparing with the wines we were drinking 3 years ago – you will also see it in my ratings, which are also higher across the board. Also as you will see from the notes, I have a sweet tooth – and not afraid to show it – Passito was my favorite wine in the tasting. Don’t get me wrong – again, all the wines were excellent, and if I have to use one word common description, the word would be “elegant”.

Here are my tasting notes:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2013 Broccatelli Galli Montefalco Rosso DOC (13.5% ABV, $19, Sagrantino/Sangiovese blend)
C: dark Ruby
N: cherries, herbs, touch of minerality
P: bright tart cherry, leather, tobacco, cherry pit, medium body, easy to drink
V: 7+/8-, simple and nice, would work well with food

2013 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso (14% ABV, $21, 70% Sangiovese, 15% sagrantino, 15% Merlot)
C: dark garnet
N: beautiful, open, inviting, red fruit
P: warm, spicy, velvety, medium body, front tannins on the finish, leaves surprisingly light perception. Touch of characteristic leather.
V: 8/8+ (definitely 8+ on a second day, very round and elevated)

2012 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, $20)
C: Dark garnet
N: herbs, sage, touch of cherries, restrained
P: medium body, good acidity, leather, cherries and cherries pit, soft, polished, easy to drink, soft tannins, very round overall, medium finish
V: 8, was perfect PnP wine, delicious and makes you crave for more

2013 Tabarrini Boccatone Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, SRP $28)
C: dark garnet
N: intense, sweet plums and cherries, sandalwood, complex
P: complex flavors, lots going on, cherries, earth, nice tart, soft, supple, layered, spicy notes
V: 8/8+, will evolve with time

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2011 Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $55)
C: dark garnet, practically black
N: ripe red fruit (restrained), baking spices
P: tart cherries, velvety, firm structure, full weight in the mouth, full bodied, very present, “Rutherford dust”, cherry pit mid palate
V: 8+, delicious powerful wine – if you like powerful wines

2006 Tenute Del Cerro Còlpertone Gold Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (15% ABV, $50)
C: garnet with brick hue
N: cherries, eucalyptus, oregano, intense, balsamic
P: round, layered, earthy, cherries, medium to long finish, powerful, excellent balance, another 10 years to evolve
V: 8/8+, delicious

2010 Tenute Lunelli Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (15% ABV, $35)
C: garnet
N: earthy, herbaceous, touch of cherries, medium intensity
P: round, fresh, open, cherries, tartness gets a bit in the way, but wine is very enjoyable from the first pour and sip. Long finish.
V: 8+, excellent

2010 Terre De la Custodia Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $45)
C: bright garnet
N: barnyard, medium intensity, ripe plums, roasted meat
P: crushed berries, acidity, tannins jump in quickly, very enjoyable but needs time
V: 8/8+, delicious Italian wine, will open up in about 10 years…

antonelli-montefalco-sagrantino-passito

2009 Antonelli Passito Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14% ABV, $49)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: dried fruit, figs, raisins, delicate – not overpowering
P: wow. And another wow. Dried fruit, but perfectly restrained. Cherry pit, tannins, acidity, tartness. Perfect balance, and very try finish.
V: 9, needs time, superbly delicious and enjoyable as it is, but will evolve amazingly…

That was an excellent tasting, I’m glad to be a part of the Fall in Montefalco.

What is your experience and opinion of Sagrantino wines? Cheers!

Few Memorable Wines

July 21, 2016 5 comments

As wine is a daily beverage at our house, the supply of it should be regularly renewed, to support that [tasty] habit. I really make an effort to stay in under $15 range for that daily enjoyment (yep, I’m a cheap bastard like that), so this is how most of the wines are acquired.

But then, of course, the are special occasions (like Monday, for instance – it happens only once a week, right? – okay, kidding), which require special wines, so I’m always on the hunt for the interesting wines, whether through the mailing lists (for those that you must have, like Turley or Carlisle), specials at the store or online (thank you, Universe, for the WTSO and Last Bottle). Those special wines disappear inside the wine fridge, and I have lots of fun trying to remember where is what, as I have no record keeping system of any sort, to ensure maximum frustration when looking for a specific bottle.

Few memorable wines

And then there are days when it is really appropriate to jolt that memory, and moreover, force oneself to make a decision about what bottles deserve to be opened, to celebrate the occasion.
We had a good occasion to celebrate very recently, with the group of close friends, so the bottles were pulled, opened and savored. And memories were created.

Here is what we drunk, more or less in this order:

2013 Carlisle Grüner Veltliner Steiner Vineyard Sonoma Mountain – Carlisle is one of my absolute favorite wine producers in California, who makes a range of single vineyard Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Syrah wines, all representing an outstanding value (most of the wines are under $40). Best way to acquire Carlisle wines is to be on the mailing list (you can sometimes get lucky with the store, but this is quite difficult). While most of the Carlisle wines are red, they also produce few of the whites, which are delicious. I had the same 2013 Grüner last year, and it was great. With another year of age, it became amazing – yes, the star Austrian white grape can grow in California, and very successfully. The wine showed a backbone of herbaceous flavors, but elevated with the bright white fruit and perfect balance. Can’t find you a generic reference, as the wine was rather unique – but if you will ever see a bottle at the store, don’t miss your chance.

Next up was 2010 Peter Michael Belle Côte Chardonnay Sonoma County – what can I tell you? Peter Michael is one of the most coveted producers in California. Just to give you an idea, Peter Michael wines were served at the White House dinner when Queen of England was visiting – not a bad reference, what do you think? To say that the wine was delicious would be an understatement. Fragrant, tongue-coating, luscious and layered. Layers were intertwining, going through all classic Chardonnay elements of vanilla, golden delicious apples, very distant hint of butter, and back to vanilla. This is definitely a special occasion wine – it also manifests in the price ($90) – but then there is always that special moment worth it, you know?

You can’t have a party today without Rosé, can’t you? Of course not. And that Rosé must be special too. Which is easy with 2011 Antica Terra Erratica Rosé Oregon. I came across Antica Terra after tasting their Phantasy wine at a restaurant (it was my wine of the year in 2012). Antica Terra is a very interesting winery in Oregon, with the winemaker honing her skills under none other than Manfred Krankl of the Sine Qua Non. If only Antica Terra wines would be a bit cheaper… Well, let’s go back to that Rosé. It was a full power wine – there was nothing subtle there – but instead there was a perfect parade of the fresh, juicy cranberries and ripe strawberries, with spices and mineral notes – outstanding.

Remember I thanked Universe for Wine Til Sold Out (WTSO)? Had a reason to thank them again after opening the bottle of 2005 Domaine des Monts Luisants Les Genavriéres Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru. Technically, I have an insatiable thirst for the Burgundies – but the problem is that most of the inexpensive ones rather disappoint – and expensive ones – well, I don’t get to drink those. This is where WTSO comes to the rescue – I got this bottle for $50 – of course this is not cheap, but it is special occasions we are talking about here – and this is much better than its retail of close to a $100 or so. The wine was absolutely stunning – bright, sweet, ripe and savory cherries, whole bouquet of herbs, firm structure, clean acidity and perfect balance. A wow wine for sure.

And then there was Leviathan. If you are a wine geek, that name might have a meaning for you. In case it doesn’t, let me try another approach. Ever heard of Screaming Eagle? The most cult out of all cult California Cabernet Sauvignon wines? Until a few years ago, Screaming Eagle wines were made by Andy Ericsson. Leviathan was actually one of Andy Ericsson’s own projects, which was considered for a while to be a second label of Screaming Eagle – which is incorrect, as the second label of Screaming Eagle is the wine called Second Flight. This 2007 Leviathan California Red was outstanding – dark, brooding, with classic flavors of cassis and mint, layered and complex. I decanted it for an hour, which was the right move – but still, this wine is just a baby and needs to rest for a while. Luckily, I do have a second bottle, and even luckier, I have no idea where it is hiding from me, so it is safe for a while.

I hope you see a clear progression here – Grüner, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir Rosé, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon – we are increasing the depth and concentration with every next wine. So what would you continue this line up with, just for the finishing touch? I’m sure there are few options here, but my decision was … California Zinfandel.
Not just any Zinfandel, but Carlisle – which means lots of dark power. This 2012 Carlisle Zinfandel Montafi Vineyard Russian River Valley was almost a natural continuation of Leviathan – dark berries, sage, round and smooth – it is amazing how Carlisle wines don’t give out the alcohol level of 15.9% – you don’t even think about it until you look for it on the label. Delicious.

And now, to round up the evening? Port! Last year I was lucky to visit Quinta do Tedo, a winery in Douro valley which was founded by the Bouchard family of Burgundy fame. I brought back a few wines, and this 2010 Quinta do Tedo Late Bottled Vintage Porto was one of them. The wine was perfectly delicious – sweet fruit but not a tad hair over the balance – you have a mouthfeel of garden fresh berries, with their natural sweetness, and nothing extra. This was a beautiful finish for our special evening.

I’m glad we have special days in our lives, so we can have such memorable celebrations. I had a bit of time to reflect on this stupendous group of wines, and I figured that I actually had a favorite – that Burgundian wine was simply flawless – I don’t know if the wine was at a peak, will it further evolve or will it start to decline – but what I had was spectacular.
I would like to leave you with this, my friends. What were your memorable wines as of late? Cheers!

Restaurant Files: Fun Evening at the Sign Of The Whale in Stamford, Connecticut

June 21, 2016 2 comments
Sign of the Whale entranceWhat makes the restaurant visit “fun”? Good company and good conversation? Check. Good food? Check. Good drinks? Check. Good music, preferably live? Check. The view? Would be nice. Check.
Okay, now that we have the magic formula, I have a place for you, where you will be able to mark all of the above check boxes (well, you are in charge of your own fun company – can’t help you there) – Sign Of The Whale restaurant in bustling Harbor Point neighborhood in Stamford, Connecticut.
From the moment you walk in, you are greeted by spacious and noisy place – the noise is a sign of any happening restaurant where people like to stop by after a day of work, have a drink and discuss… whatever they feel like discussing. And let’s talk about that drink. The restaurant offers nice selection of cocktails. We had an opportunity to try a few – Raise the Roof (Silo Barrel Aged Gin, Apple Bite Cidre, black walnut bitters served over ice) was nice and refreshing (gin’s aromatics was somewhat dialed down though), Strawberry Mule (Leblon Cachaça Rum, lime juice, agave nectar, strawberries, ginger beer. Strawberry Garnish) was very pleasant and Spiked Fall Tea (Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, Cranberry vodka, lemonade, sugar rim, lemon garnish) packed a nice punch.
I have to also mention the wine list at the Sign of the Whale. While it is rather on the short side, it sports an excellent selection of the interesting wines. I had a glass of 2013 La Galope Rosé Côtes de Gascogne – fresh, tart strawberries profile with great acidity. Another wine which I liked very much was 2014 Insurrection Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Blend South Australia – balanced fruit, overall nicely restrained and well complementing our steak (see below).

And then, of course, there was food.

Our selection of the appetizers started from the Shrimp Skewers (old bay seasoning) – perfectly cooked, excellent flavor profile.

shrimp skewers at the Sign of the Whale

Coming right after was Seafood Tower (clams, shrimp, lobster, two types of local oysters) – presentation alone makes you salivate profusely.Lobster and shrimp had perfect texture, and oysters were delicious.

Our dining experience continued with Chopped Kale Salad (Tuscan and Baby Kale tossed in sesame vinaigrette, topped with oranges, avocado, fennel and cucumbers) – to say that it was one of the very best kale salads I ever had would be an understatement – perfect balance of flavors with crunchy texture; sesame vinaigrette was simply spot on. Next arrived Ahi Tuna (Ahi Tuna tossed in soy ginger sauce, served over avocado cream, topped with yuzu aioli, and served with wonton chips and wasabi) – again, excellent flavor, very tasty.

Two more appetizers were completing first part of our dinner. Lobster Minis (Claw, tail and knuckle meat, lightly mixed with mayo, lime, lemon, and blood orange) were texturally good, however, the flavor was lacking for my taste. Fish Tacos (Haddock fried in tempura batter, with pineapple, apple and pickled red onion) had nice crunch on the fish, and apples with pickled onions were providing nice refreshing component.

Not to be outdone, our main course followed, starting with Seafood Cavatelli (Little hollow pasta shells, tossed with Lobster, shrimp, chopped clams and capers in lobster cream sauce), which I can describe in one word – delicious.

Our next dish, 16 oz Bone-in Rib Eye (Grilled, served with caramelized onions, Parmesan steak fries, sauteed spinach, chickpeas, shallots and house steak sauce) was easily everyone’s favorite at the table. Here my description will be even shorter – wow. Perfectly executed steak, triple-fried (!!) potatoes were amazing, house steak sauce was perfect, so all together was simply a wow.

Our last main dish was Pan Seared Atlantic Sea Scallops (U-10 scallops served with vegetable orzo pasta salad, finished with a Blood orange beurre blanc) – it was perfectly executed both in presentation and the texture of the scallops, but what spoiled the dish for me was the amount of salt on top – just too much.

Along the way we also had a pleasure of listening to the Chef Brian Murphy who came to check on us a few times and use the moment to talk about our delicious experience:

Chef Brian Murphy , Sign of the Whale

Chef Brian Murphy , Sign of the WhaleAnd now, let me  present to you the desserts! Remember I told you that today we are talking about concept of fun at the restaurant? So to make sure it is fun all the way, how about some adults desserts? Yep, you got that right – these would be the desserts which also have an addition of so called “adult beverages”. And I don’t know if any other place can do it better that the Sign of the Whale – even presentation of those adult beverages is an art form.

From the Tidal Wave Drinks menu, we had The Blue Whale (Smirnoff Vodka/Coconut Rum/Blue Curacao/Pineapple Juice/Sprite) and Old Man’s Orange Potion (Smirnoff Orange Vodka/Triple Sec/Orange Juice/Sprite) – tell me if you think those are not the fun to share:

More exciting desserts followed, like Ice Cream sandwiches, Adult Root Beer Floats and Seasonal sorbet. And for my ultimate happiness I can tell you that the regular coffee was excellent, which is more of a rarity nowadays.

You know what is also great at the Sign of the Whale?  The outside seating on the roof deck! Here is what you can see if you will wait until it will get dark outside:

Roof Top at the Sign of the Whale

harbor Point vew from Sign of the Whale

View from the roof top of Sign of the WhaleI hope I gave you enough reasons to go and check Sign of the Whale on your own. And if you will not – well, it will be your loss… Cheers!

Sign Of The Whale
6 Harbor Point Road
Stamford, CT 06902
Ph: (203) 883-8282
http://www.signofthewhalect.com/

Sign of the Whale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What Is A Good Wine?

April 19, 2016 11 comments

wine_in_a_glassLet’s say you are given a glass of wine. Can you tell if this is a good wine or not? Before you will jump on the obvious, let me clarify this question a bit – the wine is in the perfect condition – it is not corked, it is not cooked, it is not oxidized – there are no common faults of any kind, this is just a well made bottle of wine. So, is it good or not?

Is this question even makes sense? Can such a question be answered? Let’s talk about something more common first – food. Imagine you are in a restaurant for dinner, with friends and family. The dishes start arriving, and here is a side of french fries. There is a very good chance that if the fries are executed properly – good color, nice consistent cut, crispy and not soggy, with the right amount of salt, tasting fresh – everybody at the table would universally agree that “the fries are good”, and you can only hope that there was enough fries ordered for everybody to share. What is also important here is that nobody would be shy to slam these very french fries if something is not up to snuff – too much salt, fried in the old oil etc – everybody are confident in their ability to judge french fries to be universally good and tasty, or not.

Stepping up from the side dish, let’s take a look at the main dishes ordered around the table. Someone got steak, someone got lobster, someone is enjoying vegetarian lasagna. Now, it would be much harder to build taste consensus around the table for all these dishes. One person likes steak rare, and the other one only eats it well done – it will be very hard for these two to agree what is good and what is not. Someone might be allergic to a shellfish – there is no way they can even touch the sauce from that lobster dish to attest to your “this is sooo good” claim. So yes, it is hard to build a consensus here, but people are confident in their own right about the dishes they ordered to be able to judge good or not. If steak doesn’t have the right level of doneness, it will be sent back. If lobster is not seasoned right – well, not sure about “sent back”, but I’m sure the problem with the dish will be stated and discussed at the table.  And of course if one states that their dish is delicious, then the whole table must try at least a tiny bit to experience “the goodness” (at least this is how it works in our family).

Now, arriving at a wine, the situation is different, and often dramatically. Unlike french fries, the wine still has an aura of mystery, of a special knowledge required to be able to understand and appreciate it, and to claim if it is good or not. The same people who are very confident to send underdone or overly salty (to their personal taste!) steak back to the kitchen, will be very shy and even afraid to say anything if the wine is obviously corked – they will take it as their own inability to properly understand the wine, and therefore will not say anything. Of course the situation is not as consistently dramatic as I present it here – wine today is very popular, and increasing number of people feeling confident enough around it to state what they like and not; however, step out of the oenophile circle, and go dine with people who drink wine occasionally, and I guarantee you will hear “ahh, I don’t know anything about wine” as an answer to the question if they like the wine or not.

In reality, making a personal “good/not good” decision about the wine is as easy as in the case of french fries. I took the “Windows on the World” wine school back in the day, which was taught by Kevin Zraly – Kevin is single- handedly responsible for teaching tens of thousands of people to understand and appreciate the wine. Of course the question “is this a good wine or not” was one of the most important questions people wanted to get an answer for in such a course. Kevin’s explanation was very simple: “Take a sip of this wine. If this wine gives you pleasure, it is a good wine”. You can look at it as overly simplistic, as there are many factors affecting the perceived taste of wine – where we are, who we are with, the label, the story behind the label, the temperature, the mood, yada, yada, yada. Of course this all matters. But still, for majority of the cases, we are looking for pleasure out of drinking the glass of wine – the way it smells, the way it tastes, with all the little discoveries we make as we let the wine open up and change in the glass (“ahh, I taste blueberries and chocolate now”) – all those little pleasant moments we experience with every sip, it gives us a pleasure of enjoying a glass of wine; if we are getting the pleasure, this is a good wine. Yep, I said it was simple.

Very often pleasure is simplistically associated with erotic and sex, or at least that would be the very first thing which will come to the mind of many once they hear the word “pleasure” – oh no, I see your condemning look, of course I’m not talking about you, you are wired differently. Meanwhile, we derive pleasure from everything which surrounds us, and from everything we do – and if we don’t, we work hard to fix it. Every waking moment of our day is a perfect illustration to this. If we start our day from a walk or may be a meditation – it is a pleasure of being one on one with yourself, deep in your own thoughts. Think about the pleasure of hugging that morning cup of coffee or tea and smelling the aroma. We look at the watch on our hand – it doesn’t have to be the Rolex or Philippe Patek to be admired and to create a feeling of pleasure. We put on a shirt or a blouse, look in the mirror – and we are pleased with the way we look (okay, fine, we might not be – but again, then we get to work hard to fix it). After the day at work, we come home to be welcomed by a wagging tail and a scream “mommy is home” followed by a huge smile and a hug – tell me that this is not what defines pleasure. No, not everything we do gives us pleasure – but those little bits and pieces of pleasure is what we seek, every time, every day.

Wine is simply a complementing part of our lives. Today we are in the mood for the white shirt, tomorrow for the blue with yellow stripes – similarly, today you might want the glass of Pinot Noir, tomorrow it can be Tempranillo. We are constantly changing, and so do the things which we will get the pleasure from. People go from carnivores to vegetarians to vegans and back to carnivores – as long as we find pleasure in the way we are at the moment, that is all what matters. No matter what is in your glass, if it gives you pleasure, it is a good wine. It really doesn’t matter what the experts said about the wine you are drinking. It really doesn’t matter what your friends say. If this is White Zinfandel in your glass, and it gives you pleasure, it is a good wine. If this is massive, brooding Barolo, and it gives you pleasure, it is a good wine. If this is big, oaky, buttery California Chardonnay, and it gives you pleasure, this is a good wine – don’t let anyone who says that Chardonnay should be unoaked and acidic to persuade you otherwise. It is okay to have your own, individual taste – we do it with everything else, and wine shouldn’t be any different.

If the wine gives you pleasure, it is a good wine.

This post is an entry for the 24th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC24), with the theme of “Pleasure”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish, Epiphany, Crisis, Choice, Variety, Pairing, Second Chance, New.

 

Wine and Beer Lovers, Unite, or Marrying Hops and Grapes

April 9, 2016 3 comments

Sacrilege? Possible. Should I be ostracized by beer and wine aficionados alike, and this very blog been banned forever from their reading lists? I will leave it to aficionados to decide. I’m merely doing what I’ve always done in this blog – sharing my experiences, those which I deem worth sharing. That’s all there is to it.

When I got email from Andrew Jones, the winemaker behind one of my favorite labels, Field Recordings, advertising something called “Can Club”, the decision was quick – “yada, yada, yada – I have to do it” (the “yada” part is here to explain how much attention I was paying to the exact email content). Then I glanced over the following: “ Pure, free-run rose from a pair of our westside Paso Robles vineyard partners, mostly Grenache.  100% whole cone citra hops [sic] were added prior to canning.  The results, a super refreshing elixir, combining your love of Provence with a touch of Belgian brew.  I have a tough time explaining it because it isn’t like anything I have tried before.  It’s impossible for me to properly analyze.  I just want to drink it.“, and the next thought was “whatever. I have no idea what he is talking about, and I don’t care”. So yes, I signed up.

Few days ago, the door bell rung, and FedEx guy asked me to sign for something which rather resembled the set of engineering drawings – “hmmm, what is it” was my first thought. And then it downed on me (“this box contains alcohol” sign was a good cue) – aha, the can club?! I liked the unorthodox presentation so much that I even shared the puzzle on twitter, asking people to guess how the object in the picture can relate to the wine:

FedEx TubeThe most prevalent idea was “poster”, so I had to share an answer a few hours after:

Citra Rosé shipmentAnd then I opened the can. The liquid in the glass had an appeal of a perfect Rosé. Classic salmon pink color. On the nose, it was perfectly Provençal Rosé – touch of strawberries, hint of onion peel, refreshing minerality, touch of lemon. And the palate was, once again, perfectly Provençal – strawberries, touch of lemon, fresh, crispy. With the tiny beer bite on the finish. You know, the one which you get from the fruity, light Belgium beer. You don’t have to believe me, but I only read Andrew’s exact words when I sat down to write this post. “love of Provence with a touch of Belgian brew” – wow. It would be rare, very rare case that my take on the wine would match its description with such a precision . And then I have to fully agree with Andrew on one other thing – “ I just want to drink it“.

What can I tell you about this 2015 Field Recordings Citra Rosé Paso Robles (13.1% ABV, $14 retail/$10 club – 500ml can, 67% Grenache, 22% Picpoul Blanc, 8% Mourvédre, 3% Syrah)? It was delicious, perfectly combining the best of both beer and wine worlds – crisp, fresh, bright, thoughts provoking. Dangerous as well – as the wine comes in the can, you pretty much treat it as a single serving – while it actually contains more than 3 standard glasses of wine. But I think the taste is well worth that danger. And until you will get your hands on one of those cans, my words are all you got, so yes, take my word for it.

I want to raise my glass to never ending creativity and courage. Beer and wine lovers, rejoice! Cheers!

One on One with Winemaker: Marcello Lunelli of Ferrari Trento

April 4, 2016 8 comments
Ferrari Wines

Source: Ferrari Winery web site

I’m sure Ferrari wines don’t need long introduction to any oenophile. Giulio Ferrari started eponymous winery in 1902 in the mountainous region in Northern Italy called Trento. He was the first person in Italy to plant substantial quantities Chardonnay, which he personally brought from France, and then started production of the “Classic Method” sparkling wines, inspired by the French Champagne. In 1952, Giulio Ferrari had chosen Bruno Lunelli to become his successor at the winery, and this was the beginning of the second chapter of Ferrari’s history. The rest is, yes, history, and you can read it for yourself here.

Over the years, Ferrari received numerous accolades, including most recent ones, “Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year 2015” from Tom Stevenson in the UK and “European Winery of the Year” from Wine Enthusiast magazine in the US. I had an opportunity to [virtually] sit down with Marcello Lunelli, Ferrari’s winemaker, and ask him a few questions – you can read our conversation below:

Q1: Ferrari is considered a symbol of the Italian Art of Living. What this “Italian Art of living” concept includes, how would you define it?

A: My family is incredibly proud that Ferrari as a brand is considered a symbol of the Italian Art of Living internationally. Whether it is being served at the Quirinale, home of the President of the Italian Republic, or used to toast celebrated events in the world of fashion, sport, cinema, culture, or design,  Ferrari represents that hugely evocative emotional blend of tradition, sense of place, inherent quality, and the poetic virtues of our most cherished way of life.

The Italian Art of Living embodies the passion for beauty, taste and elegance; the ability to embrace innovation while respecting traditions; and a zest for life that is the very soul of the Italian spirit.

I firmly believe that the success of Italian wine is due to a unique love affair that exists in many countries for our way of life, our food, our rich and unique history, and the traditions of our culture. Beauty and pleasure are mutual to one another and Ferrari wines has joined together with fashion and design brands as ambassadors of the Italian lifestyle.

Q2: How is riddling done at Ferrari – still by hand or with use of the machines?

A: In the Ferrari winery we still do 1/3 of the riddling by hand, in particular, all the vintage wines and reserves. The rest is done with use of the machines.

Q3: Typical “house cuvée” at the Champagne house is a blend which might include about a 100 so called Vin Clairs, still wines coming from different vineyards and vintages. Does Ferrari have similar approach in the production of the non-vintage sparkling wines?

A: We do have a similar approach in the production of non-vintage sparkling wines. The biggest work in the vineyards and in the cellar is to keep separate each single homogeneous zone production in order to create the best cuvée.

Non-vintage sparkling wine cuvée includes grapes coming from vineyards within the Trentodoc denomination, which means only in Trentino region and it is created with 70/80 different base wines. Moreover vintage sparkling wine is made with grapes coming only from our own vineyards and it is a result of 40/60 diverse base wines of the same year.

Q4: Ferrari is promoting sustainable viticulture. Do you have any plans to become all organic, or at least to produce an organic wine?

A: One of the core philosophies of the Lunelli Group and Ferrari Winery is the advancement of sustainable practices throughout all our vineyards. We believe that by practicing sustainable farming techniques we not only improve the quality of our wines but protect and preserve our majestic environment and improve significantly the health and safety of our farmers. Indeed we strive to make sustainability a cultural heritage for all of our grape growers.

All of the vineyards owned by my family including those of the Ferrari winery and Tenute Lunelli are cultivated according to organic agricultural principles and in the near future they will all be organic. At the moment we are already producing an organic certified red still wine, Aliotto from our estate in Tuscany.

Q5: Considering that you share common name with the world famous car manufacturer, did you ever try to create a business relationship with Ferrari the car maker?

A: We are glad to share common name with an iconic brand such as Ferrari Maranello and to have a very good relationship with them. We are also proud to have in our photo gallery of famous moments, striking pictures of Grand prix ceremonies celebrated with Ferrari wines.

We both work throughout the world in promoting the very best of Made In Italy.

Q6: What was your most difficult vintage at Ferrari and why?

A: One of the most difficult vintages was 2014 due to a very long and intense rainfall during the growth cycle of the vine which presented a great challenge in vineyard management to ensure healthy grapes for the harvest.  It is in a very complex year like 2014 that man, his work and his vision make the difference.

Q7: What is the oldest Ferrari wine you have in the cellar? What was the oldest Ferrari wine you tasted?

A: The oldest Ferrari wines already disgorged are from the sixties, when Giulio Ferrari and Bruno Lunelli were still working in the winery. The oldest Ferrari, still on the lees, is 1972 vintage, which is also the first vintage of Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore.

I was lucky enough to taste the first vintage of Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore. It was amazing, well balanced mature notes with an unexpected youth, fruit of our Trentino territory, Trentodoc mountain agriculture which allows for both longevity and youthfulness.

Q8: Do you have a favorite vintage of Ferrari wines?

A: My favorite vintage is Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore 1995 for two reasons: first of all because  it is considered the vintage of the century where power, elegance, longevity and freshness are combined in one single wine and all these factors are in a perfect and unshakeable balance. Secondly this vintage has a personal affection because I had the good fortune to start to work at Ferrari in 1995.

Q9: Do you only use two varieties in the winemaking – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – or do you use any others, such as Pinot Meunier, for instance?

A: We use Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes separately for white wine making in order to create all our 100% Chardonnay Ferrari wines and the Ferrari Perlé Nero,  our 100% Pinot Noir, blanc de noirs. For our Rosé we use both the grape varieties: Pinot Noir, using the Rose making-process, which gives body and structure to wines and Chardonnay which provides elegance and freshness.

Q10: Do you produce or do you have any plans to produce still wines?

A: Ferrari Winery creates a remarkable collection of Trentodoc sparkling wines, yet the Lunelli Group also includes a series of elegant and long-lived still wines, under the brand, Tenute Lunelli.  This brand embraces wines from three regions, each superbly suited to the production of winemaking grapes: Trentino with its mountain viticulture; Tuscany with the rolling Pisan hills and Umbria which reveals herself in the small, fascinating DOCG of Montefalco. All our still wines are representative of our standards of high quality with the ability to demonstrate the variety of our diverse lands; this is the incredible richness of the Italian wine industry.  Respect for the land and sustainability are today common core values in all our brands.  Besides the Estates and Ferrari, the Lunelli Group is made up of a distillery, Segnana, a mineral water, Surgiva.

Q11: Do you have any favorite Champagne wines, or any sparkling wines for that matter?

A: Champagne Bollinger and Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Pol Roger which embody the characteristics I love in sparkling wines; elegance, refinement and longevity.

Q12: When you are not drinking Ferrari wines, what are your favorite wines, from Italy or anywhere in the world?

A: When I do not drink Ferrari I drink my favorite red still wines from Sangiovese grapes and Nebbiolo grapes: Brunello di Montalcino and Barolo. When I choose Barolo I always have discussion with my father because he prefers Barbaresco, with less power but more elegance.

And we are done here, my friends. I think this was quite fascinating and interesting conversation, adding an interesting detail to what you might already know about Ferrari wines – for sure this was very informative for me. I have to admit that I would looooove to try that 1972 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore – well, the man can dream, right?

I didn’t have any new wines to taste to leave you with some tasting notes, but if this conversation made you thirsty, here are the links to my older posts about Ferrari Brut Classico and Ferrari Perlé. Cheers!

One on One with Winemaker: Aurelio Montes of Montes Winery, Part 2

January 19, 2016 2 comments

As promised, here is the continuation of our conversation with Aurelio Montes Sr – Founder and Chief Winemaker of Montes Winery. You can find first part of the interview here.

Montes Alpha winesWhile the first part offered insight into unique (and unexpected) areas such as using of Feng Shui principles and Gregorian Chants at the Montes winery, this second half of the interview is also full of  interesting details about present and future of Chilean winemaking. Here we go:

Q7: Do you use natural yeast in production of your wines?

A: Not for white varieties, although we have made Chardonnay trials in coastal areas, but in most cases result in that we obtain a very slow and long fermentation, which jeopardizes the final quality of the wine.

We prefer to use selected yeasts in white varieties, which ensure us a good rate of fermentation, working at low temperatures and retaining maximum aromatic potential of the wine.

In the case of reds it is different. We love to work with natural yeast when possible. They tend to express terroir better than the selected ones. However, much will depend on the conditions of the season, that is, if the season was very warm and the fruit arrives to the winery with a very high potential alcohol, we then prefer to use selected yeast that will ensure a good end fermentation. In the case of very rainy seasons, where the grapes arrive at the winery in bad conditions with some presence of fungi, we prefer to don´t take any risk and use selected yeast as well.

Under normal harvest of red grapes, without rain during maturity or heat peak’s that can cause an exaggerated increases in sugar content, we can then use natural yeast, maintaining important regimes of oxygen during fermentation and also moderated temperatures, in order to not stress these yeasts that behave in some cases very sensitive when the conditions are adverse during fermentation.

Q8: Montes Alpha had been a pioneer in many areas of winemaking in Chile. Particularly, it was the first winery to produce Syrah wines. How would you describe your Syrah compare to Northern Rhone, California or Australian wines?

A; Our Syrah, because of the natural conditions, and some winemaking policies, is different to Rhone or Australian Syrah. Ours is midway between the two mentioned valleys. It is ripe but not as jammy as the Australian one…is austere but still far more friendly and approachable than the Rhone style. This puts us in a perfect position, in terms of quality, and in fact my opinion is that the best New World Syrah comes from Chile

Q9: What was your most favorite vintage of Montes Alpha Syrah and why?

A: I think the 2006 vintage was a very good harvest, where this wine was well known. But I feel that the 2012 was even better. We had a very good season in terms of absence of spring frosts, an accumulation of rain water which enabled us to reach harvest with a low level of risk, and also a free of summer rains and reasonable temperatures. In particular, our Syrah from Apalta that comes from mountain grown fruit behaved very well, controlling a balanced amount of clusters per vine, allowing us to concentrate fruit color and body. Elegance and aromatic complexity found in the Apalta Syrah is really incredible. From this estate also comes the Syrah that goes to our Icon Folly made 100% out of Syrah.

Q10: In the wine world, there is always a conversation of the “next big grape”, which is usually country and region specific – like Sauvignon Blanc in Argentina, for instance, or Chardonnay in Oregon. Is there a “next big grape” for Chile?

A: I like to believe that the Carmenère can be our “next big grape”. But we struggled to position it, despite the efforts the sector makes. Chile has a high level of quality in this variety, considering various valleys and different heights, in the central and even coastal areas of Chile. After this many years of experience we must remain vigilant and continue working and learning in order to deliver the best quality Carmenère in the world.

I would like to add that recently Chile also has been making quite some noise on varieties such as Pais, Cinsault, Muscat, Grenache, Carignan, etc. In this last varieties with very good results.

In our case we crafted the Outer Limits line, which allows us to be more adventurous, dreamers, and let our imagination fly to experiment;

However I believe that the Cabernet Sauvignon is still the king of varieties that Chile has. Not only well renowned for the great quality but also because it represents the productive power and essence of the Chilean wine.

Q11: Does Montes Alpha have plans for the new grapes to be planted? Anything you are experimenting with right now?

A: We are not closed to the possibility. We are always looking for new things, but today to plant new surface is a sensitive issue. Chile is going through a time of overstock of wine, which forces us to be cautious about increasing our production. In the northern hemisphere the situation is similar, which puts us at a critical point.

Without adding the irrigation problem that the viticulture is facing around the world, which forces us to be very astute at this point. Today, more than planting new varieties on new surfaces, we are willing to replace those varieties and vineyards that do not meet our expectations, and replace this to try some new things.

For example, we have had very good reviews on our Tempranillo and Tannat 2015, after years of testing and harvesting dates, and exploring winemaking forms. Maybe we can do something about those varieties in the near future.

We are also touring various new areas as Cachapoal Valley, in search of a distinctive variety with unique quality and expression. Is under this inspiration that we have found and made quite interesting things, such as Pink Moscatel from Curtiduría, or a Pais from Lolol and other interesting projects that currently are still in the oenological kitchen … but this strategy of seeking other wine realities has given us many satisfactions to myself and the team.

Q12: when you are not drinking Chilean wines, can you give me a few examples of your favorite wines, regions and producers?

A: In terms of wines, if I were to pick an outstanding wine I would choose an Ornellaia Masseto. And if I could delight and reward myself with another, it could be an old vintage of Pétrus.

And we are done with the interview. It is time to take a look at another two Alpha Montes wines I tasted:

2012 Montes Alpha Syrah Colchagua Valley, Chile (14.5% ABV, $25)
C: very dark garnet, almost black
N: blueberries, violet, sage, fresh, touch of tobacco
P: silky smooth, round, roll-of-your-tongue, restrained, nice minerality, balanced fresh berries, touch of spice, touch of sweet licorice, excellent overall balance
V: 8, easy to drink, will greatly evolve

2012 Kaiken Ultra Malbec Uco Valley, Argentina (14.5% ABV, $25)
C: dark garnet, practically black
N: concentrated, dark fruit, plums, violet, tar, tobacco, very, very inviting – super sexy, first analogy
P: wow, concentrated fruit, luscious, polished, layered, round, balanced, great dark power, well integrated tannins
V: 8+, outstanding, wow and dangerous (and sexy! – I rarely designate wines like this, but … of well, I will wait for you to try it)

And we are finally done here. I hope you enjoyed our conversation as much as I did, and may be even learned something new. Until the next time – cheers!

One on One with Winemaker: Aurelio Montes of Montes Winery

January 13, 2016 13 comments

Montes AlphaThings in life often connect in most unexpected ways. Few years ago I read an article about the ways music affects the winemaking. I was unable to find that article or much references ever since. Many times I came across the wine with an interesting label and somewhat peculiar name of Montes Alpha – but I never tasted one.

Few weeks ago I got a note about wine samples from the winery called Montes Alpha from Chile. That note also mentioned Gregorian Chants and Feng Shui been essential elements in wine production at that very winery. This was enough to send my curiosity through the roof and ask for more information – and talk about the way things connect in life, right?

Who can better answer questions wine and winery questions if not the winemaker? I gladly used an opportunity to [yet again] sit down (yes, virtually) with the winemaker and send the barrage of questions his way. I have to tell you that all my questions were answered well in depth – and I think you will find this conversation interesting too. Here is our dialog with Aurelio Montes Sr – Founder and Chief Winemaker of Montes Winery.

Q1: I understand that your winery was built using Feng Shui principles. Are there any specifics in using Feng Shui specifically for the wineries? Do you have any followers from other wineries who came to learn from Montes Alpha experience?

A: We seek to apply the principle of balance and harmony of space in our winery. If you live and / or work in nice balance places, the energy will continue their natural rhythms and will lead to welfare in all its aspects.

It is in this sense, it was incorporated as a fundamental principle in the early stages of design and construction of our winery, the inclusion of all basic elements such as water, metal, wood, stone, etc., in accordance with the principles of this Asian discipline, to ensure this harmony and above all a positive atmosphere.

For example at the entrance to the building is the wooden bridge over a small lagoon, whose water flows toward the building. A fundamental principle of Feng Shui is that prosperity will only come if the water, which represents energy, flows into the center of the building, rather than away from it.

I understand that no other winery has incorporated the Feng shui principle.  In our case, one of our founders, Douglas Murray, was always fascinated with this concept and idea of building a harmonious winery and wine with our environment, therefore we hired the advise of an expert in this field to introduce the principles of feng shui in the foundations of our construction.

Q2: Did you apply or can you even apply Feng Shui principles in the design of the vineyards?

A: Feng shui is related to harmonize spaces. In our case it was considered to harmonize the spaces between the vineyards, winery and of course, our people. To get, as a result, the best wine we can possibly achieve. I believe that in a balanced environment, all pieces come together to perfectly to achieve a greater result.

I am not an expert on the subject though, and not sure how Feng shui can be applied to the vineyard. However our vineyards are planted according to quality policies, soil conditions, variety, etc. I believe that the harmony in the management of our vineyards is the result of the best possible quality grapes we can achieve, keeping always in mind the sustainable conditions.

Q3: I heard about Gregorian chants at the winery. How and where do you use them?

A: The Gregorian chants play constantly in the icon barrel room of our winery at our La Finca de Apalta Estate. The wine seems to enjoy it and I love it. In my opinion, besides the physical effect on wine, it does have an important effect on people’s moods and they work with more happiness and confidence. It keeps us calm in the cellar.

Montes Alpha wines

Q4: Did you try to test the effect of Gregorian chants on aging of the wines by creating a “control group” of same exact wine from same exact vintage and aging it under regular conditions (no music), and then comparing the two wines in the blind tasting?

A: For long now I have been interested in the effects of music in wine. I am happy to share with you a study we funded at Heriot Watt University about the effect of background music in wine tasting.

In terms of wine tasting the “control” with no music at all had a score 20% lower than the tasting held in presence of music.

Q5: Did you experiment with impact of music on the grapes in the vineyard? I remember reading about some of the experiments in that area, and I wonder if you have any information you can share here

A: Not yet and I don’t know of anyone that has done it. I presume there are so many uncontrollable variables such as temperature oscillation, different weather conditions, etc that would make it difficult to assess the particular influence of music in the vineyards.

Q6: Montes Alpha is certified Sustainable winery. Do you have any plans to become an organic or may be even biodynamic winery?

A: From our beginnings, our philosophy has been to produce wines of the highest quality, always concerned with the care of the environment, developing a sustainable viticulture in all stages of winemaking.

We believe sustainability covers a broader spectrum and a larger concept than being only an organic or biodynamic winery. It not only concerns the caring of our vineyards and the environment that surrounds it, but also the legacy that we leave for the next generations. We are very careful with our habitat, natural resources and above all improving conditions for the community.

Being sustainable also takes care of the social aspects of our workers – having a profitable operation permitting us to offer a stable place to work.

We also minimize our use of energy and treat our waste-water to reuse it in the irrigation of our vineyards.

Having said all the above we still have some plans to develop a line of biodynamic wines in a few years.  We have also moved forward in improving our carbon footprint, becoming one of the few carbon neutral wineries in Chile. We have not only traveled to improve our carbon footprint but also to significantly reduce the use of pesticides and replace them with more friendly environmental agents.

No, we are not done yet with the interview, but I don’t want to overload you with an information. I can also bet you are thirsty now, so let me present to you two of the Montes Alpha wines I had an opportunity to taste:

2012 Montes Alpha Montes Twins DO Colchagua Valley (14% ABV, $15, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Malbec)
C: very dark garnet, almost black
N: a bit of funk, herbs, blackberries, hint of black currant, inviting
P: good dark fruit, chalk, firm structure, pencil shavings, tart acidity on the finish, restrained. Next day the wine acquired some umami complexity with notes of tobacco.
V: 8-/8, an excellent wine hiding under simplistic packaging; outstanding QPR

2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley (14% ABV, $25, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: cedar, cassis, classic
P: cassis, dark fruit, clean, round, soft
V: 8, outstanding, round, easy to drink

Here you go, my friends. Do you use Feng Shui in your life? What do you think of wine and music? And of course, did you have any of the Montes Alpha wines? I have two more wines to talk to you about, and continuation of our conversation with Aurelio Montes Sr. to share, so stay tuned.

To be continued…

Looking Back and Looking Forward

January 8, 2016 14 comments

VineyardsI’m sure you guessed from the title and the timing of this post that I want to talk about past year 2015 and freshly minted 2016. Yep, I’m predictable like that, you are correct.
So how was 2015 for 2015 for Talk-a-Vino in my own eyes? Great, but challenging. Very challenging. 2016 will be equally difficult, with great potential to be even more challenging, a lot more.
Sure, I will explain. Nothing happened with my love of wine or passion for blogging – both are as strong as ever. What I had (and will have) a problem with is time – my main line of work (the one which pays the bills, you know) is incomparably busier than two years back, and finding quiet time for the labor of love is now not easy at all. No, I’m not complaining, just explaining the change in cadence of the posts coming out.
Talking about 2015, there were few new things which I started doing. During the year, I was offered a few opportunities to meet with the winemakers, and was unable to find time – this is how the concept of virtual interviews came to life. I realized that even when I can’t sit down with the person in the same room, I can still ask questions – and get great answers. I also offered to profile wine apps for any of the app producers who would be interested, and so far had 3 posts in that series – by the way, the offer still stands if anyone is interested.
From the things which I didn’t like so much, but they still happened in 2015, was stopping the series of the Saturday wine quizzes. I had lots of fun creating those, but reached the point when it became very difficult to create challenging, but fun questions, so I had to stop the series, at least for the time being.
What should you expect in 2016? I definitely will continue the virtual interviews – as a matter of fact, one of them is coming out very shortly. I also have good number of posts which I really should’ve written last year, but did not. There were wine dinners, there were tastings, there were winery visits which never made it into the posts. However, the subjects are still worth taking about, so you should expect to see some of those “posts from the past”. I don’t know if I will make a series out of those posts (as an engineer, I like to organize things, may be even more than necessary), add short intro to those posts, or simply put them out without any regards to the “past” – no matter, they will still appear on Talk-a-Vino pages.
2016 is on, so let’s raise the glass to all the fun things which are ahead of us. Cheers!

Categories: Blogging, Life, wine Tags: , , ,

My Favorite Wine?

December 27, 2015 6 comments

Once people establish that I’m a wine snob [connoisseur, aficionado, oenophile – please insert one more appropriate], very often I hear one of the most dreadful, intimidating, difficult questions an oenophile can get – “so tell me, what is you favorite wine?”. When I shrug the question off and say “sorry, I don’t have one”, the usual continuation is “oh, come on, you must have one”.

It is hard to explain that my answer is not a coyly, flirting attempt to exaggerate my self-worth, but I think it would be true for any oenophile – it is impossible to name one wine and to say “this is it, this is my only favorite wine”. I’m not even talking about one specific wine from one specific producer, and it is not even one specific grape – either way you spin it, oenophile is always ready to give you a short and concise list of favorite 100 wines. Note that the longer the conversation will be, the longer the list will become. It should be much easier to answer question about the dream wine – the wine one obsessively wants to try – of course there always many on that list too, but at least for me it is easy to single out one dream wine – DRC (yes, I know that Domaine de la Romanée-Conti makes more than one wine, but I’m not picky, you know…).

It is really hard to pick the favorite wine as the more you taste, the wider your “circle of knowledge” becomes – and you are bound to find gems in every little cornier of the vast winemaking world, with hundred thousands new wines produced every year. To top that diversity off, even for one and the same person taste of wine is very subjective, affected by mood, weather, company and myriad of other factors. No, it is an impossible question.

Now, I want to offer you something instead. At the end of every year I make an effort to reflect on the wines I had a pleasure experiencing, and to summarize it in “Top Wines” post. So far I produced 5 such posts, which I call “Top Dozen”. I managed to keep those posts to a dozen only in 2010 and 2011, and then 2012 – 2014 all included two dozens of the top wines. As it is time to write the same for the 2015, let me reflect a bit on the past posts and give you a list of Top 10 wines from 2010 – 2014. While I always state that those top lists are given in random order, the wine #1 is always thought through, so those choice are not random. Lo and behold, here are the Top 10 Talk-a-Vino wines of 2010 – 2014:

2010

2. Rozes Over 40 Years Old Port ($90). My best port ever. I can close eyes and imagine the smell and taste of this wine – multiple layers, tremendous complexity and great opportunity to reflect on life when the finish lasts for 15 minutes. Find this wine and experience for yourself.

1. Mara Laughlin Road Ranch Pinot Noir 2007, Russian River Valley ($45). Incredibly balanced, silky smooth wine, very powerful and round. Alcohol content is 15.6%, and it can’t be noticed unless you read the label. Great wine now, will improve with some cellar time. Find it if you can.

2011

2. 2001 Masi Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella ($130) – this was an Amarone I’m constantly looking for and can’t find. Stunning nose of the raisined fruit, a dried fruit extravaganza – with powerful, structured and balanced body – not a glimpse of overripe fruit which is so common in the nowadays Amarone. Truly beautiful wine for the special moments.

1. 2010 Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles by Field Recordings ($20) – First and foremost, it is a smell which doesn’t let you put the glass down. Fresh flowers, meadows, herbs, fresh summer air – it is all captured in the smell of this wine. On the palate, this wine shows bright red fruit, like raspberries and cherries, all perfectly balanced with a great finesse. Any time you want to experience beautiful summer day, reach out to that wine.

2012

2. 1947 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja ($400)65 years old wine  – still bright and youthful. This was one amazing experience – tasting the wine of such an age, and finding that you can really like it without looking for any  age discounts. Fruit was still bright, all wrapped into cedar box and eucalyptus notes, with soft tannins and fresh acidity.

1. 2010 Phantasi Oregon White Wine ($100, Magnum price in the restaurant) – wine geeks, rejoice! This is your wine! If you read this blog for a while, you already know that I’m self-admitted wine snob. But – you probably also know that compare to the wine snob, I’m somewhat of a 100-fold wine geek. I would try absolutely any wine and I purposefully seek odd and unusual bottles.

When this wine was offered to us in the restaurant $100 for a magnum, this was an offer I couldn’t pass by. And what the wine it was! This is 100% Roussanne wine from Oregon, made by Antica Terra – unfortunately, you can’t even find any information about this wine on the winery web site.

The wine was served at the room temperature. Deep, pungent, concentrated – in the blind tasting (actually blind, so you would not be able to see the color in your glass) I’m sure this wine would be easily identified as red. Good acidity, good balance, very food friendly – and very unique.

2013

2. 2005 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis Les Grandes Vignes – I remember almost making fun of someone else using the word “gunflint” in the wine description. And here I am, taking a first sniff of this wine with the first word coming to my mind … gunflint! That sensation of gun powder-like smell, the smoke was incredible – and it was very pleasant at the same time. Tremendous minerality, lemony notes and some apples, clean and vibrant acidity and perfect balance. This wine was definitely an experience.

1. 1970 Quevedo White Port – even people in Portugal are not aware of the aged white Port – I witnessed a few surprised looks when talking to the people about white Port which is aged. This wine might be never bottled, as I’m sure it is hard to create a category from pretty much a single barrel of wine. Nevertheless, the ultimate complexity of this wine, coupled with the visual snapshot of tasting it in the Quevedo Port cellar (cue in all the aromatics and mysterious atmosphere), makes for an ultimate experience which will stay in memory forever.

2014

2. 2007 Pago Marqués de Griñon Emeritus, DO Dominio de Valdepusa ($75) – until I tasted this wine, yes, I knew that Spain produces good wines from the international grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. But at such level? This wine was a true revelation – classic Cabernet Sauvignon with cassis, mint, eucalyptus and finesse.

1. 1966 Louis M. Martini California Mountain Pinot Noir ($NA) – I had no expectations when I opened the bottle of the 48 (!) years old wine. To be more precise, I was not expecting anything good. What I found in my glass was simply mind blowing – still fresh, still elegant, perfectly recognizable as Pinot Noir and delicious! This was the first wine ever to receive a 10 rating from me – I hope it tells you something.

Producing this Top Dozen list is somewhat of a daunting task, as the opportunity to second guess oneself is truly boundless – but then this exercise becomes a source of great pleasure as you get to re-live the whole year.

I understand you still don’t know what my favorite wine is (that makes at least two of us), but with the list above you know at least a bit more, don’t you? In case you are interested in seeing complete TaV “Top Dozen” lists, here are the links for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Keep in mind that whether you consider yourself an oenophile or not, creating a top ten (insert your number) list is always fun,  so take piece of paper, pour yourself glass of wine, and get to re-live the year through the wines and all the memories connected to them. Yes, the wine is an emotional connector. Happy reflections!