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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!

 

Serious Fun With Wines

July 24, 2012 9 comments

In case you are wondering about the “serious fun” versus “not so serious fun”, somehow this title just got stuck in my head when I thought about this post, and I decided not to fight that. Also, when you have Gaja, Ornellaia, Turley, Bertani and whole bunch of other interesting wines, I think “serious fun” is a good way to put it. And to stress even further how serious the fun was, I’m even using different style of pictures for this post instead of usual “just label” style (and yes, you are right, I also use an opportunity to play with my new camera).

What is your first thought when you see the name like Gaja on the wine list? I don’t know about you, but in majority of the cases I would expect to see a red wine there. Yes, I can think of Gaja Chardonnay, and only because it typically looks at least as an affordable possibility on the wine list, as opposed to the Gaja red wines, which are not. So the wine we had was a white wine made out of …(wait for it)…Sauvignon Blanc!

2006 Gaja Alteni di Brassica Langhe DOC, Italy was a total surprise. Mineral nose, with wet stone, smoke and heavy grass. Touch of white fruit on the palate, more stone, touch of lemon, perfectly balanced. Finish lasted for 3 minutes, if not longer! Very beautiful wine. Drinkability: 9

The next wine we had was also coming from a very respectful Italian producer, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. And the wine was…yes, white again! The grape? Yep, Sauvignon Blanc. 2010 Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, Toscana IGT was simply delicious, with perfumed nose of lychees and white apple. Palate was exhibiting nuts and ripe apple. Very long finish with some tropical fruit notes coming in later on. Bright, round, amazing! Drinkability: 9

We continued our “whites’ extravaganza” with 2009 Ken Forrester The FMC ( (Forrester Meinert Chenin), South Africa.  This wine was made out of the Chenin Blanc grape. While Chenin Blanc is one of the signature white French grapes from Loire, it also makes great wines around the world. It does particularly well in South Africa, where it is also known under the name Steen. This particular The FMC wine is a single vineyard flagship wine of  Ken Forrester, one of the oldest producers in South Africa. This wine had a beautiful nose very similar to a typical chardonnay – nutty with some acidity, bright yellow color, very round. Drinkability: 8+

Done with whites. Before switching to the reds, we had a different, very unusual wine – as you can judge from the color above, this wine is not called “Orange” for nothing. Orange wine is one of the latest trends, where skin of the white grapes is left in the contact with juice during maceration. This imparts a nice deep yellow/orange color, hence the name, orange wine. This wine also was not some fly by night experimental plonk. 2008 Marani Satrapezo 10 kvevri, Georgia (100% Rkatsiteli grape, all coming from specific block of the Kondoli vineyard) was made in a traditional Georgian style with maceration for 20-25 days in historical clay vessel called Kvevri.

The wine had beautiful orange color. On the nose it had aromas of a bright fresh apricot. Palate was dry, full bodied, vegetative with enough brightness, touch of apricot but no sweetness whatsoever. After three hours in decanter the wine softened considerably – this wine definitely would benefit from a few years in the cellar. Drinkability: 8

Okay, we are finally switching to reds – with it’s own set of surprises. We started from 1997 Estancia Meritage Alexander Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend). The wine had perfect color – dark, concentrated ruby red. Eucalyptus, wet stone, dust and raspberries on the nose. Bright red and black fruit on the palate with cassis, eucalyptus and licorice – perfect balance, nice, soft tannins. Drinkability: 8+

This was probably the biggest surprise of the evening – 1997 Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah California. Generally, Toasted Head makes simple everyday wines – which you generally are not going to age. This wine was simply lost in the cellar, and we opened it to taste but with the full readiness to dump it. To our astonishment  (too strong of a word, but – why not), the wine had perfect acidity, bright youthful color, good black fruit, soft tannins and a touch of cassis. Drinkability: 8

The next wine was Giribaldi Cento Uve – but this will be a subject of a separate post, so I will skip my tasting notes for that wine. And the next wine was the one … we killed – it sounds way too strong, I know – but please read on. Amarone are typically big enough wines, so we decided to decant this wine – without even tasting it first (but the nose was perfect!). This was a [big] mistake. After 3 hours in decanter, the wine became barely drinkable. Another 30 minutes later, the fruit came back, both on the palate and the nose, only to disappear shortly after. Note to self – be careful with decanting. Considering this experience, I will not give this wine any rating – it simply wouldn’t be fair.

As you might expect, we didn’t just drink – we had a lot of good food as well. Just to give you an example, here is lamb kabob in the process of making:

To complement the lamb, we had 1996 Turley Duarte Zinfandel – nice fruit, raspberries on the nose and the palate, hint of jammy fruit later on, plus some eucalyptus. Very good overall balance for the wine at 15.4% ABV. Drinkability: 8-

And then of course there was a dessert – Clafoutis (no further comments, just look at the picture):

This was definitely a great experience. Pretty rare case when all the wines worked very well and were absolutely delightful – if I can only re-taste that Amarone… Well, may be one day. Wishing you great wine experiences! Cheers!

Must Try Wines

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

It is not so simple to talk about ”must have experiences” – as we move on in life, the idea of ”must have” can be changing dramatically, taking something which was considered divine to something you can literally despise.

Our experiences are personal, and they have value within our view, our picture of the world. This is true pretty much for everything, but this is ultimately true when it comes to food and wine. If someone is strictly a white zinfandel drinker, convincing him or her that this Chateau Latour is a good wine would be an impossible task. Therefore, does it make sense to come up with the list of ”must try wines”? I believe so. This doesn’t have have to be a ”must try” list for everyone, but this is rather a personal belief based on the present relationship with the wine world. By reading books, blogs and magazine articles, talking to people (twitter conversations included), and then doing more reading, talking and thinking (and drinking!!!), this list came by as my personal reflection. These are the wines I would like to experience at least once – nothing more and nothing less.

Few notes about the list. First, it is built by country, and then sub-regions. The primary idea behind including most of the wines you can see on the list is their reputation, which is based on what I read and heard. Yes, majority of the wines in the list are super-expensive, but this just a consequence of their reputation, I guess. Considering that, I also included possible substitutes for some of the wines – some of the substitution suggestions are based on the official (and semi-official) ”second labels” (here’s a link to the post I wrote for The Art Of Life Magazine on the subject of the second labels) – for instance all of the Bordeaux First Growth have their official second label wines (some of them even have third labels now). Some of the other suggestions are simply based on geographic proximity and ownership – for instance, Chateau Hosanna is located next to the famed Chateau Petrus and both are owned by the same owner, Christian Moueix.

And few more points. If you want to get that list in the form of the PDF file, here is the link for you. If you are interested in my logic as to why particular wines and wineries are there – I will gladly explain, just ask a question. If you think there are other wines I should include in the list, let me know – I will greatly appreciate the suggestions. However, if you think that I’m wrong and some of the wines shouldn’t be on this list – well, tough luck – the is is my personal list, and this is the way I see it at the moment.

Without further delay, here is the list. Cheers!

Country/Region
Winery/Wine

Potential Alternative

France

Champagne

Krug Clos du Mesnil Krug Grand Cuvee NV
Krug Clos d’Ambonnay
Salon Le Mesnil

Bordeaux

Chateau Latour Les Forts de Latour
Chateau Lafite Rothschild Carruades de Lafite Rothschild
Chateau Mouton Rothschild Le Petit Mouton
Chateau Haut Brion Le Clarence de Haut-Brion
Chateau Margaux Pavillion Rouge
Chateau Cheval Blanc Le Petit Cheval
Chateau Petrus Chateau Hosanna
Chateau Le Pin

Burgundy

DRC Grand Cru Échezeaux
DRC Grand Cru Richebourg
DRC Grand Cru La Tâche
DRC Grand Cru La Romanée-Conti
DRC Grand Cru Montrachet

Sauternes

Chateau d’Yquem

Northern Rhone

E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne
E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline
E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque
Chateau Grillet

Southern Rhone

Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin
Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee da Capo
Italy

Piedmont

Gaja
Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Falletto

Tuscany

Ornelaia Masseto
Antinori Solaia
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto
Ornelaia Le Serre Nouve, Le Volte
Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano

Veneto

Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone
Spain

Rioja

1964 Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” Gran Reserva Rioja

Ribero Del Duero

Vega Sicilia Unico Valbuena 5°
Bodega Dominio de Pingus
US

California

Bryant Family DB4
Colgin Family
Harlan Maiden
Screaming Eagle Leviathan
Sine Qua Non
Alban Vineyards
Saxum

Washington

Cayuse
Quilceda Creek
Portugal
Taylor’s Scion Very Old Port
Australia

Barossa Valley

Penfolds Grange
Seppeltsfield 100 year old Para Vintage Tawny