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Samples Galore: Few Wines For The Fall

November 8, 2017 4 comments

Are there different wines for the different seasons? In general, the answer is no. And for sure, in theory, the answer is no. The wines should be paired with food, with mood, with the company, and the actual season should have no effect on your desire to drink Champagne, or Rosé, or ice cold, acidic white or a full-bodied, massive red. Nevertheless, as the temperatures are sliding down, our desire to drink bigger wines proportionally increases. Thus, instead of fighting the trend let’s talk about few wines which would perfectly embellish any cooler autumn night.

So you think we will be only talking about red wines? Nope, we are going to start with the white. Cune Rioja Monopole requires no introduction to the wine lovers – one of the pioneering white Riojas, produced in 1914 for the first time. If you tasted Cune Monopole recently, I’m sure you found it fresh and crips. Turns out, this was not always the style. The traditional, “old school” Monopole was produced as a blend of white grapes (not just 100% Viura), with the addition of a dollop of Sherry (yep, you read it right), and was aged in the oak (read more here). To commemorate 100 years since the inaugural release, Cune produced 2014 Cune Monopole Clásico Blanco Seco (13.2% ABV, $20 ) which is a blend of Viura and other white grapes. After fermentation, a small amount of Manzanilla Sherry from the Hidalgo Sanlúcar de Barrameda was added, and the wine aged in the used Sherry casks for about 8 months. This wine had a great added complexity while remaining fresh and vibrant. Drinkability: 8. You should definitely try it for yourself – if you can find it.

Let’s stay in Spain now for the red. What do you think of the wines from Castilla y León? Castilla y León region is home to some of best of the best in Spain, such as Vega Sicilia and Pingus, both located in Ribera del Duero sub-region. But there are plenty of outstanding wines which are simply designated as Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León. Vino de la Tierra is considered a lower quality tier than DO or DOC – but some of the winemakers prefer VdT designation as it gives them a lot more freedom to experiment with the wines.

Case in point – Abadia Retuerta winery. Historical roots of Abadia Retuerta go back almost thousand years when Santa María de Retuerta monastery was built on the banks of Duero River, and the first vines were planted. Today, Abadia Retuerta exercises modern approach to winemaking, which they call “plot by plot” – the winery identifies 54 unique parcels of land, each one with its own terroir – no wonder they find DO rules too limiting for the wines they are creating. Here are my [more formal] notes for 2013 Abadia Retuerta Sardon De Duero Selección Especial Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León – Sardon De Duero (13.5% ABV, $30, 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and other red varieties such as Merlot and Petit Verdot):
C: dark garnet
N: inviting, bright, ripe cherries, mint, roasted meat, very promising, cedar box
P: wow, smooth, layered, luscious, fresh fruit, ripe, cherries, sweet oak, excellent balance
V: 8, lots of pleasure

Now, let’s quickly jump to the other side of the Earth – to Australia, it is. If we are talking about Australia, you probably expect the subject of the discussion will be Shiraz – and this is a perfect guess. The story of Two Hands winery started in 1999 when two friends decided to start making world-class wines showcasing capabilities of different Australian regions, starting with Barossa. Gnarly Dude is one of the wines made by Two Hands, and the name here comes from the way the old Shiraz vines look like. Here are my notes for the 2016 Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz Barossa Valley (13.8% ABV, $35, 100% Shiraz)
C: dark ruby
N: fresh blackberries, baking spice, tobacco
P: more blackberries, pepper, save, savory notes, medium to full body, good acidity, good balance
V: 7+, very nice overall

Let’s go back to Europe – to Italy to be more precise. Italy is home to lots and lots of world-famous producers, but there are still a few which have more of a “legend” status. One of such producers is Gaja – anyone who is into the wine would immediately jump off the chair at the slightest opportunity to drink Gaja wines.

Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino (1)Gaja is most famous for their Piedmont reds – Barolo and Barbaresco. It appears that in addition to the first two Bs (Barolo and Barbaresco), the third “B” group of wines is not foreign to Gaja – if you thought “Brunello”, you were right. Gaja acquired Pieve Santa Restituta estate in Montalcino in 1994, its first venture outside of Piedmont. A “Pieve” is a parish church, and the estate was named after the church which is still present on site – the winemaking history of the estate can be traced all the way back to the 12th century.

In 2005, Gaja produced the first vintage of non-vineyard designated Brunello di Montalcino wine from Pieve Santa Restituta estate – the wine is a blend of Sangiovese Grosso grapes from 4 different vineyards. I had an opportunity to taste 2012 Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (15% ABV, $75, 100% Sangiovese Grosso, 12 months in barrel, 12 months in Botti). I have one single word which would be enough to describe the experience – and the word is “Superb”. The wine had an intense welcoming nose which was unmistakably Italian – ripe cherries and leather. The palate? Where do I start… velvety, perfectly extracted, dense, firmly structured, ripe cherries, lavender, sweet oak, impeccable balance. And dangerous, very dangerous – once you start, you can’t stop (nevermind the 15% ABV). Drinkability: 9

What are your favorite wines to enjoy in the Fall? Cheers!

 

Daily Glass: Few Wines, Beautiful and Interesting

March 11, 2014 5 comments

Disclaimer: this blog post is not an attempt to create the new rating system. It is rather an account into the emotional escapades of the oenophile tasting wine.

Here I’m again with the super-indescriptive descriptor – beautiful wine. I wonder if the phrase “beautiful wine” gives you a mental image. I’m not talking about the exact image of an object shaped in the form of a bottle, but rather a mental anchor you can relate to “ahh, I understand”. Let me deconstruct this “beautiful wine” term as the following:

1. The wine is perfectly balanced – fruit, acidity, tannins, texture, structure – all together.

2. Drinking this wine is a pleasure

3. The wine is memorable

4. “Beautiful wine” designation is totally spontaneous and emotional. It usually happens after the first sip and the subsequent uncontrollable “wow”.

When it comes to the term of “interesting wine”, that happens when I’m puzzled, like “hmmm, interesting, I’m not sure what to think of it”. Please understand that it is very different from “ouch, it needs time”, “what is it???”, “crap” and “this is disgusting”. “This is interesting” simply means that I can’t put a handle on what I’m tasting, where, for instance, the initial sensation of round and silky is followed by something harsh and unbalanced. “This is interesting” usually ends up being extended into “hmmm, this is interesting, let’s give it some time”. From this point on, the wine can be put aside to be drunk at another day, or it might go into the decanter if I feel that it would be sufficient to change it.

Here are the few wines we had last week, some beautiful and some are … interesting.

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2011 Field Recordings “Neverland” Red Wine Grassini Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (15.1% ABV, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot. Aging: 50% new French barrels, 25% new American barrels, 25% seasoned French for 18 month) – believe it or not, but every time I open a bottle of Field Recordings wine (which is easy – just twist off the screw top), I have a moment of trepidation – will it be as good as everything else I tasted before from Field Recording? You could’ve noticed in this blog that I have a lot of happy reviews of the Field Recordings wines, thus it creates that uneasy moment with each new bottle opened. Luckily, this bottle of “Neverland” didn’t deviate from the trend at all – beautiful nose of cassis and blueberries, open, bright and concentrated, followed by more of cassis, sweet oak and blueberries – but nothing over the top, soft and delicious fruit with perfectly refreshing acidity, soft tannins and overall impeccably balanced. This was a beautiful wine – and equally dangerous (“dangerous wine” = disappears before you notice it). Drinkability: 8+

2012 Cane and Fable 373 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tempranillo, 5% Petit Verdot. Aging: 225L oak barriques, 25% new, 12 month)  – this wine is the result of collaboration of Field Recordings’ Andrew Jones and Curt Schalchlin of Sans Liege fame. Different presentation of the bottle (yes, I know, that giant cricket on the label can be off-putting), and the bottle is enclosed with the actual cork and not the screw top as all of the Field Recordings wines. The nose was more restrained than the previous wine, but still showing cassis with some earthy  overtones. On the palate, this was that exact “interesting wine”. It was showing nice fruit and structure, but was somewhat fluctuating on an off in terms of being round, or not. So this was an interesting wine to put aside, which I did. As you can take a hint from the cork enclosure, this wine is intended to age – and on the second day it came together, showing cassis with the addition of espresso and earthiness – I think that Tempranillo was holding it away from becoming Bordeaux-like, so this was the wine on its own, well balanced, restrained, and craving for food. I have another bottle and I definitely intend to give it a few years to see what it is capable of. By the way – a mini quiz for you – care to guess what 373 stands for in the name of this wine? Drinkability: 8-

2010 CVNE Monopole Rioja DOC (13% ABV, 100% Viura) – the oldest white wine brand of Spain, produced since 1915. Fresh citrus and herbs on the nose, impeccably balanced and restrained on the palate, with the notes of lemon and green apple, clean acidity, very pleasant to drink. I have a few more bottles, and I’m keeping them. Drinkability: 8

2012 Colline de l’Hirondelle Cocolico, France (15% ABV, 60% Chenançon Noir, 25% Grenache, 15% Syrah) – Another case of the interesting wine, this time due to a number of factors. First of all, this wine contains a new grape – Chenançon Noir from France. Second of all, the initial impression from this wine was more reminiscent of the big body, brooding Spanish Grenache – Shatter by Dave Phinney or Alto Moncayo come to mind – and it was not round enough and was asking for decanter – which was provided. After about 40 minutes, it showed plums and ripe sweet cherries, still powerful and big bodied, but more round and balanced then from the get go. Considering the price of $15.99, if you like big and powerful wines, this might be the one for you. Drinkability: 8-

And that concludes my post. Any beautiful or interesting discoveries you care to share? Comment away! Cheers!