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Posts Tagged ‘cabernet sauvignon’

Precision of Flavors – Tasting the Wines of Achaval-Ferrer

March 26, 2017 1 comment

Achaval Ferrer CorkDrinking wine is a pleasure – for sure it should be, and if you don’t feel like it, maybe you shouldn’t drink it at all. At the same time, there are multiple ways to look at one and the same thing.

A pleasure of drinking of the glass of wine may be just as it sounds, very simple  – take a sip of the liquid in the glass, say “ahh, it tastes good”, and continue to the next sip or with the conversation, whatever entices you the most at the moment.

Then there are many of us, wine lovers, who, professionally or unprofessionally, can’t stop just at that. Yes, we take pleasure in every sip, but then we need to dig in. We feel compelled to put on the Sherlock Holmes hat and play the wine sleuth, figuring out exactly what we are tasting in that very sip. What was that flavor? Was that a raspberry? Hmmm, maybe not. And that whiff of something? It is so familiar! Why can’t I put a name on it? Grrrr.

Everyone who engaged in that wine tasting exercise I’m sure can relate to what I’m saying. But every once in a while, we do get a break, when the flavor simply jumps at you, pristine and obvious. And the best twist here is when the flavor is matching to what is expected to find in the wine, like fresh cut grass in Sauvignon Blanc, black currant in Cabernet Sauvignon, or pepper in Syrah – don’t we love those pure and precise flavors?

Achaval-Ferrer winery is only about 20 years old, built on the passion and vision of a group of friends in Mendoza, Argentina. In those 20 years, Achaval-Ferrer accomplishments are nothing short of enviable. Achaval-Ferrer wines earned multiple Decanter magazine 5-star ratings (the highest). There are 29 wines from Argentina rated as “Classic” by Wine Spectator (95-100 ratings) – 13 out of those 29 wines are Achaval-Ferrer wines; the flagship Malbec Finca Altamira consistently getting 96 points rating year after year.

In addition to passion, vision, hard work and perseverance, the success foundation of Achaval-Ferrer is its high altitude vineyards, located from 700 to 1100 meters above sea level (2,300 – 3,600 ft). Three out of four main vineyards of Achaval-Ferrer are also about 100 years old, and boast pre-phylloxera vines, as Phylloxera simply can’t survive in those high mountains conditions. Now all left to do is to take the beautiful fruit those vineyards produce and make it into equally beautiful wines – the Achaval-Ferrer does it quite successfully.

Here is what triggered my “precision of flavors”  opening. I had an opportunity to taste a sample of Achaval-Ferre wines recently, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. While Malbec was a very good wine, but clearly needed time to mature, Cabernet Sauvignon was stunning, with flavors and aromas just jumping at your right away from the glass, with easy to relate to, textbook-correct cassis – also intensifying its purity with the time. This was a perfect example of why Argentinian wines are so popular and deserving of all your attention. And at a price of $24.99, the Cabernet Sauvignon offer an outstanding QPR, easily beating many classic Napa Cabs which would also cost you at least three times as much.

Here are my detailed notes:

2015 Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina (14.5% ABV, $24.99, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: very intense, dark roasted fruit, cassis. The roasted fruit intensity diminishes as the wine breathes.
P: beautiful cassis, clean acidity, soft tannins, lots of layers. As the wine breathes, the tannins show better and more pronounced. Pure clean black currant after a day.
V: 8+, outstanding, wow. Will evolve.

2015 Achaval-Ferrer Malbec Mendoza Argentina (14.5% ABV, $24.99, 100% Malbec)
C: practically black
N: roasted meat, smoke, tar, intense, baking spices
P: dark fruit, bright acidity, mint, alcohol burn in the back?, succulent, lavender, spicy. Blueberries showed up on the second day.
V: 8,  needs time, but perfectly delicious on the second day.

Here you are, my friends. Achaval-Ferrer definitely makes wines worthy of oenophile’s attention – and the QPR makes these wines worth seeking. Cheers!

 

Daily Glass: The Wine That Begs The Eternal Question

January 8, 2015 6 comments

Field Recordings Cabernet Sauvignon McMahon VineyardEternal question, you say? Which one of them? Wine is a well known suitor of the Eternal, so yeah, a few questions are lurking for a while…

The one I’m talking about is akin “chicken and egg” case, with a spin. Is the wine made in the vineyard or at the winery? Is it winemaker or the grape? Well, rest assured – I’m not trying to jump on this subject just for the sake of conversation. It just happened that the wine I opened yesterday made me ponder at that exact question.

What wine? 2012 Field Recordings Cabernet Sauvignon McMahon Vineyard Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, $29, 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Tempranillo, 16 month in 89% new French oak, 11% new American oak). What made me to think of the terroir versus winemaker? The aromatics. The wine had not a glimpse of Cabernet Sauvignon characteristic aromas – no cassis, no bell peppers, no eucalyptus. But on the nose there were plenty of spices. There was a hint of a forest floor, mushrooms, a touch of barnyard. There was also a smoke, and plenty of it. There was pepper. And there was tar and pencil shavings. So, what do you say – was that a winemaker talking, or the vineyard?

The palate, unfortunately, didn’t fully support the excitement. There was lots happening (still no cassis or anything else reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon), but there was lots of fruit, and vibrant acidity. At times, the wine was borderline jammy, only to be cleansed with the subsequent punch of acidity. I was looking for more balance, and it didn’t happen. Drinkability: 7

So in the end, I got no answers and more questions. Was that a bad wine? I don’t think so, as aromatics brought in lots of pleasure, and it was thought provoking on the palate. Did I open this wine too early? Yep, I’m quite convinced I did. Was that wine made in the vineyard or in the winery? I have no idea, so yes, the floor is yours… Cheers!

Top Twelve of 2014

December 31, 2014 10 comments
1966 Louis M. Martini Pinot Noir

1966 Louis M. Martini Pinot Noir

And here we are – Talk-a-Vino Top Dozen of [most memorable] wines from 2014. I already presented to you the second half of the top list (here is the link), together with all the explanations regarding rationale and all the dos and don’ts, so instead of repeating myself, let me jump directly to the wines. If you still need explanations, use the link above.

12. 2005 Domaine Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin La Chamade Ploussard, Jura, France ($50) – To a degree, this wine was representative of a great Jura tasting I attended. As most of Jura reds, it had an impression of lightness masking a great level of complexity – fruit, herbs, minerality, sapidity – a very impressive package. It is not easy to find, but worth looking for.

11. NV Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur ($32) – one of my very favorite Champagnes. It has everything I want in the Champagne – yeastiness, toasted bread, apples, clean and vibrant acidity – with all the elements coming in the “just enough” amount. A perfect Champagne sip every time – try it for yourself.

10. 2012 Centanni Rosso Di Forca Rosso Piceno DOP, Italy ($19) – I was familiar with the wines of Marche region in Italy for a while – but my preference was always with the Marche whites – until I tasted this wine. Luscious, layered, with impeccable aromatics and complexity – delizioso!

9. 2010 Marco Sambin Marcus Veneto IGT ($NA) – A soulful wine – is that a good enough description?

8. 2010 Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain ($125) – Stunning California Cabernet Sauvignon – restrained and tightly weaved, as you would expect from the mountain – side fruit, and then balance, balance, balance.

7. NV Foggy Ridge Serious Cider, Virginia ($16) – discoveries, discoveries, discoveries – 2014 was anything but short on those. Who knew that cider (just think about the word – somehow, the mental picture doesn’t equate to “greatness”) can be so amazing? Phenomenal acidity, coupled with such a firm structure and effervescent lightness that you say “wow” and pour yourself another glass. Seek hard cider, people, as it has greatness!

6. 2012 Mark Ryan The Dissident Columbia Valley ($34) – yet another wine chosen to represent a great discovery of 2014 – wines of Washington state. This wine was a quintessential representation of Cabernet Sauvignon blends I tasted during the visit, with a pure cassis expression and impeccable balance. Yes, I’m abusing the “balance” descriptor, nevertheless – a beautiful wine.

5. 2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling, Somló, Hungary ($25) – yet another discovery: there is lots more to the Hungarian wines than Tokaji and Egri Bikavér (red wine also called Bull’s Blood). It appears that Hungary has lots of volcanic soils, and the winemakers there can bring it on (yep, the famed “terroir”) to the forefront of your glass. This wine was complex, mineral driven with the pure gunflint notes, and simply delicious.

4. 2011 Michel Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria, Australia ($14.99) – you could see my raving mentions of this wine in a many posts throughout the year. Sorry, but I can’t help it – this wine is so unique and different, with such a purity of the peppery expression of Syrah – you can’t help it but to say “wow” with every sip.

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3. 2012 Willis Hall Viognier Columbia Valley ($22.99) – may be the best Viognier I ever had. If not The Best (this is a very hard nomenclature when it comes to wines), but definitely one of the very best. Perfumy nose and elegant, silky smooth body. Simply delicious.

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.

And we are done here, my friends – the last post of 2014! I wish you happy, healthy, joyous and peaceful 2015, full of amazing discoveries!

Happy New Year 2015!

Woodinville Wineries: Elevation Cellars

October 16, 2014 12 comments

Elevation CellarsThis is the continuation of the posts about Woodinville wineries – the first part can be found here.

As I walked out of the car, literally the very first winery sign I saw was for the Elevation Cellars. The name sounded appealing, so it was an easy decision – looks like a perfect spot to begin the tastings.

Inside the space looked very much like an upscale large garage with the nice wooden door, but with the addition of shiny stainless steel tanks, as well as some oak barrels. I asked if I can taste the wines (of course – what kind of question is that if the tasting room sign says “Open”, right?), and also explained that I’m a wine blogger, which was taken somewhat matter-o-factly – but very friendly in any case.

We started tasting from 2013 Elevation Cellars Imperium Riesling Lawrence Vineyard Columbia Valley AVA. The Riesling had a very interesting profile with a touch of sweetness and some interesting minerality – it was actually resembling the Washington Riesling I didn’t appreciate during the pro tasting at WBC14 – however, the Elevation Cellars Riesling had an overall round and balanced profile with pleasant tartness in the finish, so overall I liked it quite a bit. Drinkability : 7+

Next I had the 2010 Elevation Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley AVA – this wine was almost a perfection in the glass, with clean and classic cassis aroma on the nose. On the palate, the wine was restrained, fresh acidity and medium to full body (lighter than most of the California Cabs would be), overall very round. Definitely an excellent wine for all occasions. Drinkability: 8

Our next wine was a perfect Bordeaux blend with the cool label – 2011 Elevation Cellars Jammin’ Red Blend Red Mountain and Columbia Valley AVA. I can’t describe it any better than to say “perfect Bordeaux blend” again – and in need of time. Cassis, touch of green bell pepper, very noticeable tannins in front of the mouth. Delicious and drinkable now, but it will definitely evolve further. Drinkability: 8-

2010 Elevation Cellars Merlot Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley AVA was exactly what you should expect from Washington Merlot – it was bigger than the Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. Coffee and espresso notes, powerful tannins, great depth and again, the need of time. Give this wine 5-6 years, and you will not be able to put your glass down. Drinkability: 8-

I would think you would agree that the tasting looked quite good already, but we continued with more treats.

2009 Elevation Cellars Monolith Bordeaux Blend Hedges Vineyard Red Mountain AVA – absolutely delicious. Again, a clean nose of cassis, concentrated red and black fruit, chewy tannins, round and powerful. I learned that 2009 was an excellent year in Washington, and this wine was pretty much an exemplary rendition of the vintage. We also had an opportunity to drink this wine in the restaurant at dinner other night, and it was an absolute favorite of everyone. Drinkability: 8+

Before I will tell you about the last wine, I have to mention my main treat of the visit – a conversation with Steve Stuart, the winemaker and the owner of Elevation Cellars. At he time of my visit, Steve was working at the winery – there were  some issues in the morning with some of the equipment breaking up and subsequent need of cleanup – but he was asked to talk to me, the blogger, so I felt like a real VIP : ). You can read the full story on the Elevation Cellars web site, but to give you a quick round up, Steve is an engineer, and he still works as an engineer during the week, and spending his weekends at the winery, following his passion. I didn’t want to take up too much of his already busy day, so I only asked Steve if he is using natural or cultured yeast for the fermentation, and he gave me an interesting answer (which makes a lot of sense). As an engineer, he likes to be able to control things, so he uses the cultured yeast. But it is not the need of control for the need of control itself – as a small winery, he really can’t afford for the fermentation to fail. When he is using the cultured yeast, he is certain that fermentation will start and finish. We also talked about few other things, but this was my most memorable takeaway. Then I asked if I can take his picture, and Steve agreed, albeit with some degree of resistance :).

Steve Stuart, winemaker and owner at Elevation Cellars

Steve Stuart, winemaker and owner at Elevation Cellars

The wine which Steve has in his hand, which we enjoyed drinking together, was truly a special treat – 2010 Elevation Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley AVA. Steve found out that one of the barrels of 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was showing substantially better than the others – that barrel was bottled separately to become the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. My notes for this wine are very simple – wow! It was very much similar to the standard 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – only with all the taste elements greatly amplified. Cassis, structure, balance – simply a wow wine. Drinkability: 8+

This sums up my first experience with the Woodinville winery – more posts will follow. Cheers!

 

 

 

Sharing the Pleasure – Two Cabernets for the #CabernetDay

August 28, 2014 9 comments

Yes, it is a #CabernetDay, and a post about Cabernet wines should be rather appropriate – but somehow, I was on the fence about it, until the AME opened up a little bit… When the wine give you lots of pleasure, why not talk about it? Well, this is how I felt anyway.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc make some of the very best wines in the world, both when they fly solo, and when assisted by the other grapes. Myriad of love letters err tasting notes, blog posts and articles had been written to those grapes and wines, and hundreds millions of dollars traded hands for the pleasure of owning and drinking the Cabernet wines. Yes, we love our Cabernet wines (even Miles didn’t dare to poop on them). Thus I will not inundate you with another ten (or fifty) interesting facts, and instead will simply share the pleasure I had drinking the wines.

The greatness of the #GrapeDay is in the fact that it helps to select the bottle to be open. It also makes it appropriate to break a special bottle, and so I did.

Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

The first bottle opened was 2009 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley. What makes it special? I had only one bottle, and read some rave reviews advocating giving this wine some time – thus I was waiting for the “special occasion” (thank you #CabernetDay).

I don’t know how this works, but when I think about the wines in the terms of how I would describe them, I get some random analogies at random times. This time my brain decided to go with the athletes analogy. To give you an idea of how this wine tasted, imagine a runner, may be a sprinter – perfectly built slender body, perfectly visible muscles, everything is tightly wound and ready to spring at any moment. A perfectly looking, but minimalist body. That was the impression of this wine – restrained cassis notes, espresso, earth, plums, clean acidity, firm and perfectly structured – a great package all around. (Drinkability:8)

Neyers AME Cabernet Sauvignon

The second wine was 2005 Neyers Vineyards AME Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. What makes it special? I love Neyers wines – their 2003 Cabernet was spectacular, for instance. And I had only two bottles of the AME (I rarely buy wines by the case, so having only two bottles is rather common). I would say that this wine was special even for the Neyers – the AME constitutes first initials of the names of their 3 children – Alexandra, Michael and Elizabeth.

Going to the sports analogy, imagine the same perfectly built athlete, but make all the muscles at least 3 times bigger – still perfect body, no fat, just muscles, but much bigger frame and much bigger muscles. We are not getting to the bodybuilder sizes, but this might be Stallone rather than Schwarzenegger – I hope you got my point.

Delicious open nose of dark fruit, cassis, loads of cassis, eucalyptus, earth. On the palate – so many things happening – cassis, plums, earth, pencil shavings, dark chocolate and espresso combined, clean acidity, perfect balance, firm structure and powerful tannins – a wow wine. (Drinkability:9).

There you have it, my friends – two great wines in honor of #CabernetDay. What is in your glass? Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #CabernetDay – Tomorrow, WTSO Everything Goes Marathon, Crowdsourced Cabernet, World Wine Challenge

August 27, 2014 2 comments

wine quiz answers Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #111, Grape Trivia – Grüner Veltliner.

This wine quiz is a continuation of the trivia series, where we are talking about individual grapes and then you get to answer 5 questions as it relates to that grape. The subject of the last quiz was white grape called Grüner Veltliner.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: These flavors are usually associated with red wines, but it is not uncommon to find them in the description of the Grüner Veltliner wines. Do you know what flavors are those (multiple answers are possible)?
a. Chocolate, b. Pencil shavings, c. Pepper, d. Tar, e. Tobacco

A1: While Grüner Veltliner is a white grape, some of its aromas are typically associated with the red grapes, not with the whites – namely, pepper and tobacco can be often perceived in in the Grüner Veltliner wines.

Q2: These vegetables are notorious for been a “wine killer” – in terms of successful pairing, it is. And yet Grüner Veltliner is one of the unique wines (if not the only one) which is known to be able to pair successfully with those offenders. Do you know what vegetables we are talking about?

A2: Asparagus and artichoke are notoriously difficult to pair with the wines, and Grüner Veltliner often works very well with both vegetables.

Q3: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Grüner Veltliner – based wines rated in the Classic category

A3: Correct answer is “false” – there are some Grüner Veltliner rates as “classic” – but literally, there are only very few, mostly late harvest Grüner Veltliner wines rated at 95 as the highest.

Q4: According to one of the well known wine critics, the Grüner Veltliner might be “the next big thing” in which wine making country:
a. Australia, b.Argentina, c. Chile, d. South Africa, e. United States

A4: Wine expert James Halliday considers Grüner Veltliner to be potentially the next big thing in Australia, so the correct answer is a, Australia.

Q5: Which one doesn’t belong and why:
a. Austria, b. Croatia, c. Czech Republic, d. Hungary, e. Slovakia

A5: All the countries in this list are known to produce Grüner Veltliner wines, except Croatia, thus correct answer is b, Croatia.

When it comes to the results, I’m glad to say that we have a winner! apuginthekitchen correctly answered all 5 questions, so she becomes our new champion and gets the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights! I also want to acknowledge Mario Plazio (no web site), who correctly answered 4 questions out of 5. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First and foremost, tomorrow, August 28th, we are celebrating 5th annual #CabernetDay – two noble grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, countless wines from all over the world. Open a bottle, enjoy and share with the world – that’s all there is to it. You can also start celebration in style by joining the #WineChat tonight with Jean Edwards Cellars on twitter at 9 pm Eastern/ 6 pm Pacific and talking about your favorite Cabernet wines.

Wine Til Sold Out (@WTSO) is doing it again! The new Marathon will be taking place on Monday, September 8th. Only this time, it will be a very unusual for WTSO “Everything Goes” marathon. Styled after the famous Last Bottle Madness Marathons, there will be all sorts of wines offered at different prices and free shipping on any quantities (no minimums). All orders will be combined and shipped after September 22nd. The Marathon will start at 10 AM Eastern, and as usual, you will get the new wine notification only on twitter. Happy hunting!

Famous Washington State winery, Columbia Crest, recently started a new project – Crowdsourced Cabernet. You can join the group of like-minded people and become an internet winemaker for the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. 5 acres of vines, video cameras showing every angle of the grapes, the temperature, vine condition and all other information right in front of you  – and now you have to make the decision which will affect your wine – no pressure. I think this is a very cool project – if anything, an interesting learning experience. For more details and to become a winemaker, here is your link. Don’t delay, the harvest is about to start…

And the last one for today – a game. A wine education and trivia game it is, recently released by the Trinchero Family Estates. The game is called World Wine Challenge ( available in iTunes for $2.99), it will help you to learn variety of wine subjects in the interactive fashion, as well as compare your knowledge to the others in the competition format. I didn’t get a chance to download the game yet (plan to do it shortly), but in case you are interested, here is the link with all the information about the game and its features.

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way! Cheers!

Month in Wines – July 2014

August 4, 2014 2 comments

Uff, July was a busy wine month! Especially taking into account the Wine Bloggers Conference experiences, there were quite a few wines which were on the high mark. Anyway, below are the wine highlights of the month – the wines which were rated 8- out of 10 or higher. Here we go, without any particular order:

NV Ruffino Prosecco DOC – nice apple on the nose, good firm acidity with the touch of apple on the palate. An excellent sparkler. 8-

2013 La Garagista Coup de Foudre Pettilant Naturel, Vermont (11% ABV) – Minerality through the roof, round and delicious until the very last drop. 8

2012 Bellangelo Dry Riesling Finger Lakes (12.3% ABV) – Perfect Riesling nose, clean fruit, minerality and excellent acidity. 8

2013 Bellangelo Dry Riesling Finger Lakes Seneca Lake (11.3% ABV) – nose of white stone fruit, honeydew. Touch of green apple and expressive minerality on the palate. 8

2012 Bellangelo Semi-Dry Riesling Finger Lakes (11% ABV) – nice white fruit on the nose and palate, shouldn’t be consumed ice cold, as it removes form the wine. 8-

2013 Bellangelo Semi Dry Riesling Finger Lakes Seneca Lake (10.8% ABV) -apricot on white peaches on the nose. Very refreshing and a pleasure to drink. 8

2013 Château du Rouët Rosé Cuvée Réservée Tradition Côtes de Provence AOP  (12.5% ABV) – strawberries + perfect acidity = refreshing summer wine. 8-

2013 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc St. Helena – Napa  – outstanding. Grass, cat pee, lemon, refreshing and balanced – what else you can wish for? 8

2012 Donnachiara Fiano de Avelino DOCG Montefalcione (13% ABV) – sweet fruit on the nose, plump, open, touch of minerality and fresh cut grass, nice acidity. 8-

2013 Aridus Viognier Arizona – beautiful nose, classic floral Viognier , very elegant (despite a touch of heat), nice saltiness on the palate, great complexity. 8-

2012 Sevtap Istanbul Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley (12.4% ABV) – unusual nose, beautiful concentrated fruit, refreshing. 8-

2013 Imagine French Colombard California (13.6% ABV) – simple, refreshing, nice lemony notes and acidity. Perfect for the summer day. 8-

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2007 Ar. Pe.Pe Rosso di Valtelina DOC (13% ABV) – Nebbiolo at its best. Not the powerful rendition covered in impenetrable oak armor, but naked, vulnerable grape, in its sweet plum and sapidity (thank you, Stefano!) elegance. Really a beautiful wine. 8

2011 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi Single Vineyard Dry Creek Valley, California – delicious, layer after layer. Restrained, with smokey raspberries and herbs, perfect fruit, silky tannins and savory notes. Did I say “delicious” already? 8+

2012 Field Recordings Petite Sirah Huerhuero Vineyard Paso Robles (15.1% ABV) – wow. Sweet fruit, blueberries, blackberries, over the top wine – but with an excellent balance. If you have the bottle, don’t open it now – it will evolve over the next 4-5 years. 8+

2011 BellinghamThe Bernard Series Small Barrel S.M.V. Coastal Region WO, South Africa (14% ABV, 75% Shiraz, 22% Mourvedre, 3% Viognier) – Very restrained, firmly structured, perfect acidity and with a good portion of the dark magic of Shiraz. 8-

2011 Casa Bianchi Premium Leo Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (15% ABV) – nose of supple fruit, herbs and spices, touch of eucalyptus and dark chocolate.  Very dense, balanced and smooth on the palate. 8-

2010 Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain – sweet plums and cassis on the nose, touch of eucalyptus, great density, elegant and with the excellent aging potential. 9-

2011 Rodney Strong Vineyards Symmetry Meritage – open herbaceous nose, touch of red fruit, raspberries, cherries, firm structure, firm tannins. An excellent Bordeaux blend. 8

2006 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – beautiful nose, open fruit, touch of earthiness, cassis, the same on the palate. Perfect Cab! 8

2010 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – wow, open, explicit nose, eucalyptus, soft fruit, wow again. young tannins. 8

2011 Taken Red Wine Napa Valley – blueberries and blackberries on the nose, nicely restrained, perfect acidity, firm tannins, good structure, excellent balance. 8

2012 Sevtap Zig-a-zig-ah Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Ynez Valley – eucalyptus, pure, beautiful, dark fruit, cherries, overall an excellent wine. 8-

2012 Sevtap Pillow Talk Petit Verdot Santa Ynez Valley (14.25% ABV) – concentrated, earthy, almost black color, notes of barnyard. Very balanced overall. 8-

2012 Sevtap Wish You Were Here Sangiovese Santa Ynez Valley (13% ABV) – Tobacco and earthiness on the nose, clean tobacco and coffee flavor profile on the palate, an excellent balance. 8-

2010 Lions Peak Vineyards Roaring Lion Cabernet Sauvignon  – classic Cab, cassis, green bell pepper, soft, round, supple, good open fruit. 8-

2010 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 6 Santa Barbara County – classic cab, cassis, belle pepper, perfect structure. 8

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And we are done. What were your special wine experiences lately? Cheers!

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014: Live Wine Blogging

July 26, 2014 14 comments

I’m continuing my stories from the Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 (here are the links to the Day 1 and Day 2 posts). The subject of this post is tasting of the wines in the time-constrained scenario, or the Live Wine Blogging sessions (also some attendees called it “speedtasting”).

When it comes to the wine tastings of the large scale, I pride myself with being a professional. I’m attending trade wine tasting events for many years, and I don’t have any issues being faced with 300-400 wines in only 3 -4 hours of time. No problems. You use spitton, and you are very decisive about what you want and don’t want to try. I also take pictures and very minimal notes (typically the “+” signs with few descriptors) to designate the wines I like.

The Live Wine Blogging Session was yet a very new and different experience. All attendees sit at the round tables. Each table has a number in the  middle. Winemakers are ready with their wines and information in hand. As soon as the host says “go”, winemakers approach the tables they are next to, start pouring their wines and talk about them. 4 minutes 30 seconds into this, the host shouts a “30 seconds warning”, and on the 5 minutes mark the next instruction is “winemakers, go to the next table” (next table with the higher number it is). The session lasts for 50 minutes – 10 wines, 5 minutes per wine.

This is the “Live Blogging Session” – so the bloggers are expected to share their impressions live in real time as they taste the wines. What do you think about the 5 minutes time allotment for this task? I found it quite challenging. Yes, 5 minutes is more then plenty to figure out if you like the wine or not. But to come up with some reasonable impressions and taste descriptors (don’t think “nice wine” is a good qualifier) and to share them with the world with the 140 characters limit is not a simple task in my opinion. I don’t know how the winemakers felt, but for sure I was exhausted by the end of each 50 minute session.

Another feature of this live wine blogging exercise is complete unpredictability – the only known factor is the color of the wine which will be served in the session (White and Rose or Red). The wines come from all over the world, and there are lots of participating wineries, so at every table attendees only get to taste a fraction of the total selection available for the session. The wines also represented a broad range of price points – from $10 simple Washington Riesling to the $125 rare California Cabernet Sauvignon.

I did my best to adhere to the principal of the “live blogging” and posted all notes on twitter as we tasted the wines, in real time (if interested, look  for twits with #wbc14 hashtag). For what is worth, below are the notes as they appeared on Twitter, with the small processing I did to make them more concise.  To give you a “live” example, here is how the twits looked like in the real time:

Twitter SnippetHere are my notes for the white wines (each line represents a separate twit, so mostly I had 2 twits per wine, with some exceptions):

2013 Main & Geary Chardonnay Sonoma – beautiful nose, tropical fruit, apple, touch of vanilla and green apple on the palate

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – a lot of white fruit on the nose, palate: touch of grass, steely acidity
Cornerstone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is made to age. long finish, very acidic. Food wine

2013 Aridus Viognier Arizona (!) – beautiful nose, classic floral Viognier – wow palate!  Very elegant (despite a touch of heat)
also nice saltiness on the palate, great complexity. Most favorite so far

2012 Alta Maria Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley – great nose, nuttiness, vanilla, touch of butter
closed on the palate, Chablis like acidity. needs time!

2012 Fess Parker Viognier Santa Barbara County – nice nose, minerality and gunflint. Sweet fruit on the palate, very balanced, short-med finish
finish is longer than I thought, nice acidity. Very good overall

2011 Scratchpad Chardonnay Central Coast – label and the bottle – creativity through the roof!!!
Chablis-like nose, minerality, touch of vanilla, but the palate is somewhat single dimensional. Malo noticbl

2012 Pacific Rim Riesling Columbia Valley, WA – Sweet nose, nice acidity, good fruit – but overall doesn’t resemble Riesling
it is a nice wine for $10, but it wouldn’t pass for Riesling if I crave one. Okay summer wine

2013 Urban Legend Grenache Blanc Capay Valley – beautiful nose, white ripe fruit, fresh, clean
fresh palate, good acidity, white stone fruit, minerality – very pleasant. Medium finish

2012 Uproot Grenache Blanc Santa Ynez Valley – restrained nose, nice minerality, melon, earthiness
palate: acidity, spices, nutmeg, minerality, clean, refreshing. very Good overall

2013 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc St. Helena – Napa: beautiful fresh cut grass on the nose, SB at its best! Clean, fresh
Cat Pee on the nose, yes!!!
palate: perfect, fresh, lemongrass, acidity, touch of gooseberries – wow, just a classic!!! fav!!

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Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc was definitely my most favorite wine of that session. Aridus Viognier from Arizona was most unique (I don’t get to taste too many wines from Arizona). The “prize” for most creative design goes to the Scratchpad Chardonnay, taking into account both the cool label and a little pencil which hangs of the bottle top – unfortunately, the taste didn’t fully support the creativity of the bottle.

And here are the reds:

2012 Garnet Vineyards Estate Farmed Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – beautiful ruby color, touch of smoke, earthy, herbaceous
beautiful sweet fruit on the palate, young gripping tannins, pomegranate, slight heat in the back
long sweet finish. Needs a bit of time (2012)

Vineyard 511 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain – dark garnet color, sweet plums and cassis on the nose, touch of eucalyptus
beautiful! Great density, soft, approachable, with firm tannins, perfect acidity. will evolve greatly

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2011 Symmetry Meritage – open herbaceous nose, touch of red fruit, raspberries
nice Bordeaux blend, cherries, firm structure, firm tannins

2011 Rios de Chile Reserve Carmenere – barnyard, smoke, complexity on the nose, bacon and roasted meat
beautiful, round,concentrated, dark fruit, herbs, spices

2006 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – beautiful nose, open fruit, touch of earthiness, cassis, the same on the palate. Perfect Cab!
2010 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – wow, open, explicit nose, eucalyptus, soft fruit, wow again. young tannins

2010 Adelaida Cellars Touriga Nacional  – mind blowing nose, beautiful fresh fruit, wild berries – strawberries and blueberries
spectacular palate of fresh berries, firm, concentrated, excellent balance. Great wine

2011 Danza Del Sol Cabernet Franc Temecula Valley  – varietally correct nose, touch of cassis and eucalyptus, green bell pepper
great palate, fresh fruit, balancing tannins and acidity. An excellent effort

2012 Ferrari Carano Siena fresh berries nose with hint of smoke and tobacco
sweet fruit on the palate, some cherries, round and delicious. Excellent balance

2011 Carr Winery Cabernet Franc Santa Ynez Valley interesting nose – mineral, with some cherries, eucalyptus, cassis
soft, delicious palate, with more eucalyptus, cassis and greens bell pepper. Perfectly balanced and soft

2010 Grassini Wines Estate Cabernet Sauvignon on the nose, young fruit with some smokiness, minerality
lots of sweet fruit on the palate (too much for me), mocha, good structure

2011 Taken Red Wine Napa Valley – blueberries and blackberries on the nose, nicely restrained
palate – delicious, perfect acidity, firm tannins, good structure, right amount of fruit and excellent balance

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The red wines line up was very impressive, it is hard to pick the favorite. The Adealida Touriga Nacional from Paso Robles was probably the most unusual (my first 100% Touriga Nacional wine from US), and very tasty. Jordan is always a stand out for me, and both 2006 and 2010 were delicious. My wine of the day was still the Vineyard 511 – a rare treat from the Diamond Mountain district (tiny area of 500 acres in size) in Napa Valley, perfectly structured and impeccably balanced wine; the conversation with Ed and Irene Ojdana who makes the Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon was a pleasure in itself. I also have to mention Taken Red wine from Napa Valley, which was simply put on our table after the session concluded – this was an excellent wine, created by Carlo Trinchero and Josh Phelps, both coming from the very well respected winemakinig families in California.

Here we are – two speedtasting, live wine blogging sessions. I know that this exercise is very polarizing for many attendees – some hate it, and some love it. I’m in the latter category, and I definitely enjoyed the sessions and already looking forward to the repeat at the next year’s conference. What do you think – would you love it or hate it? Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #53 – Grapes Trivia: Cabernet Sauvignon

April 6, 2013 21 comments
Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

And the has come for our weekly wine quiz!

I like to organize things, when possible. So far my quizzes where a little bit (just kidding – really a lot) all over the place – from auctions to riddles to history; left, right and beyond. At the same time, I really would like to run a series of quizzes somehow related to each other. So I thought of this grape series, and that is the best I can come up with at the moment, so let me run with this.

This will be a series of posts dedicated to different grapes. Don’t wait for any substantial gotchas – at this point, there no plans for quizzes solely dedicated to Fiana or Romorantin (hmm, on the other side…). Instead, the quizzes will be dedicated to the mainstream grapes majority can attest to, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and so on.

Today we are starting with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Cabernet Sauvignon needs no introduction – it is a mainstream grape in production of many of the best (and not) red wines in the world. In a few words Cabernet Sauvignon can be described as late ripening variety with thick skin and somewhat of a small berry. Flavor profile of Cabernet Sauvignon wines often includes eucalyptus, green bell peppers, mint and black currant (cassis). Cabernet Sauvignon has great affinity to oak and the wines are usually age very well. Cabernet Sauvignon is grown all over the world with most famous wines coming from Bordeaux, California, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Italy and Washington.

Here come the quiz questions:

Q1: Which two grapes are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon?

Q2: The world’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines are located in (name winery and/or vineyard for extra credit):

A. Bordeaux

B. Chile

C. California

D. Australia

E. Georgia

Q3: True or False: Since 2000, plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon increased in Bordeaux?

Q4: The second largest in the world plantings (by area) of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are located in:

A. Australia

B. California

C. Chile

D. Hungary

E. Moldova

F. South Africa

Q5: Absolute majority of Bordeaux wines are blends. Name four grapes which are traditional blending companions of Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux

Have fun and good luck! Enjoy your weekend and cheers!

 

Special Tasting Report: Trione Winery

March 19, 2013 13 comments

A few month ago I got an email from Trione winery offering me a gift. Not just any gift – wine. Free wine. Words “free” and “wine” put together sound almost magical for the anyone who drinks wine daily (I refuse to take the calculator out – don’t ask). But the word “free” in the email usually means danger. After careful consideration, and actually looking at the winery web site, I decided that it was not a scam or phishing attempt, so I answered that I would be happy to get a free wine. The only caveat in the follow up response was that they can only ship wine to the limited number of states. Connecticut not included (of course). But New York was. And so my friend Emil became a recipient for the wine.

When Emil called me that he got the wine, he mentioned that the box looks very small. Well, okay – it is what it is – free wine, whatever the package is. And then some time later, the package made it to my house. A small black box, probably half of the shoebox in size. But there was actually wine inside. And this is how it looked like:

DSC_0137 Trione Tasting Set

Trione Winery, which I never heard of before, is a new venture of Trione family who was growing grapes in Sonoma for 35 years. Here is what you can read on the front page of their web site:

For over three decades, the Trione family has raised premium grapes that have been the foundation of many award-winning wines. Now we bring our grapes to you in wines bottled under our own label, Trione Vineyards & Winery. It is the culmination of our family’s long commitment to Sonoma County.”

Here are few more views for you (just trying to build up the anticipation here):

DSC_0143 Trione Tasting set bottles

DSC_0148 Bottles for size

Another interesting detail – it appears that this tasting set consisting of the tiny bottles is actually a concept called Tasting Room. While web site provide literally no information, the card enclosed with the package explained the concept:

DSC_0150 tasting Room concept

The wines are bottled in the small bottles using special technology which preserves all specifics of the wine, so it is exact same wine which will go into the regular bottles. The only exception – the wine in small bottles is not intended for aging (as you can imagine), so as the card says – drink up!

And with this, let me share my tasting notes. Well, not only mine – in majority of the cases we drink wine together with my wife, especially when we are looking at the interesting and unusual experience – so I’m including her tasting notes too.

2010 Trione Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc (14% ABV) – “Pear Grove” my wife said. Some fresh grass on the nose with a bit of grapefruit, but mostly earthy and herbaceous, Earthy and herbaceous on the palate as well, lots of residual acidity, but not “in-your-face”. Food friendly. Interesting. Drinkability: 7+

2010 Trione Russian River Valley Chardonnay(14.3% ABV)  – nice butter on the nose, vanilla. Nose is very promising, but palate is not good, very acidic, no fruit, kind of flat. I’m sure it needs time or at least different serving temperature, therefore it is not rated.

2008 Trione Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (14.2% ABV) – Nice nose of dark fruit, tobacco, touch of roasted meat flavor. Nice palate of dark fruit, raspberries, plums, tobacco, pencil and sage undertones. Good palate, good balance. Very good overall. Drinkability: 8-

2008 Trione Russian River Valley Syrah (14.8% ABV) – Wow color – very dark, intense, almost black. My wife’s notes were “oh, this is good” , “great potential”, “very promising” (disclaimer – my wife loves Syrah, probably her favorite wines). Dark roasted fruit, silky smooth, perfect balance, perfect acidity, cherries, earthy notes. Definitely very promising. Very good overall. Drinkability: 8-

2007 Trione Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (14.5% ABV) – absolutely beautiful nose – perfectly classic, with mint and blackcurrant – textbook flavors. Coffee showed up later on the nose. Wife’s notes: “overpowering , but very yummy”. Big, powerful, silky smooth, noticeable tannins – but excellent balance. Touch over-extracted on the palate, but only in terms of power, not sweetness. Needs time. Drinkability: 8

2007 Trione Alexander Valley Red Wine (14.5% ABV)  – Dark chocolate, coffee, blackberries on the palate, nice complexity. Beautiful, round and open fruit. Needs time. Drinkability: 8-

As you can see, it was a very enjoyable experience (it’s too bad that the bottles were that small) – next time you see Trione wine in the store, don’t just stand there, grab a bottle…

That concludes my special tasting report, folks. Until the next time (hopefully someone will send me good and free wine soon) – cheers!

Disclaimer: the wine was provided by Trione Vineyards and Winery free of charge. All opinions are my own.