Wine triggers emotions. Emotions become memory knots. Sometimes, just one quick look at the bottle is enough to unleash the memory flood – where, what, how, the images and thoughts are just start coming in. Wine triggers the memory of the moment in the past, and we remember what was happening. But how often do we remember the wine itself? How often do we remember the smell and the taste? Take the wine out of the context of the memorable event, just bring it back to the regular Monday night, just an average, uneventful night – how many Monday (or any other regular weekday or weekend) night bottles can you recall?
And then there are wines which require no memorable setting to be memorable on their own. The wines which don’t bring the memories of the moment, but rather memory of itself. Those wines are rare, few and far in between. But they exist. And from time to time, we are lucky enough to encounter one more. My latest encounter? 2011 Turley The Label.
2011 Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (13.4% ABV) was released in the late fall of 2013, and came out in its traditional simple bottle. Dark garnet color liquid went into the glass. Swirl, another swirl, sniff… OMG. What is it? What is this wonderful aroma, which doesn’t let you put the glass down – nor take a sip – the first smell commands another… and another … and another. At first, you are not even looking for the right words to describe what you smell, you just keep enjoying the aroma. Then the brain starts moving impatiently – “I know this smell, I know this smell, come on, come on”. All of a sudden, the realization comes in – yes, I do know the smell. It is black currant. Bot not the berries. It is the leaves. It’s those meaty, big green leaves on a hot summer day – that’s what it is – and the smell is incredible.
Similar to the fresh meadows of Fiction, or gunflint of Frédéric Gueguen Chablis, those fresh black currant leaves of Turley The Label create an unforgettable image – really a memorable wine in its own right. The magnificent smell was followed by the dark supple fruit on the palate – blackberries and black currant, with firm tannins. It took the wine three days to open up and to actually show what it is capable of, when dark chocolate and espresso joined the profile of much brighter fruit, well structured with supple tannins, good acidity and overall perfect balance. Definitely a great wine which will need about 10 years to really come to its best. Drinkability: 8+
What are your most memorable wines? I would love to hear your stories. Happy Monday and cheers!
The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…
Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!
As I skipped the traditional Meritage, I would like to start with the answer to the wine quiz #86, How well do you know your wines. In the quiz, you were given the pictures of the top of the wine bottles, and you were supposed to name the producer or wine based on that picture of that foil top. Here are the answers (and below are the pictures, now with the producer/wine names):
1. Laetitia, the winery in California producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines
2. Cambria, the winery in California, also producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines
3. Wente, large winery in California Livermore valley
4. Turley, California Zinfandel and Petite Sirah specialist (however, the picture was taken from the bottle of Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon)
5. La Rioja Alta, one of the best Rioja producers in Spain
6. Peter Michael, California winery producing great Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon
Bonus: Satrapezo, a great wine made out of Saperavi grape by Marani winery in Georgia – I understand that this is a very obscure wine for many, this is why it was set as a bonus question.
Talking about the results – this was a tough quiz, with a few people being able to properly identify Wente, and then some guesses for the #2 being Cline – this is close, but incorrect. The “C” on the Cline bottles is done slightly in the different style.
I still like this quiz, so here comes round number 2 – hopefully you can do better! Here we go:
And the bonus question:
Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!
I was in “zin’s mind” this past Father’s day. I don’t know how did that happened, but when I was thinking what bottle to open for dinner, “how about Zinfandel” thought came over. I had no reason to resist, so Zinfandel was it. And by the way – the title of this post sounds a bit antagonistic – but this is not the idea. I just happened to enjoy recently 3 different Zinfandel wines, hence the wording in the title.
Zinfandel is one of the pretty unique grapes – even if we will count Primitivo as Zinfandel (which technically is incorrect – it is only a very close relative), there are only a handful of places where Zinfandel wines are produced. But – the good news is that California, the primary Zinfandel’s habitat, has no shortage of excellent Zinfandel producers.
If you will take a look at my “Happy Father’s Day” picture, you can see two Zinfandels there – and these are the wines I want to talk about. First, a couple of words about producers. Turley Wine Cellars needs no introduction for any Zinfandel aficionado. Turley produces 28 wines, most of the them are Zinfandel with addition of few Petite Sirah and some others, coming from Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Paso Robles and other primary areas in California. Turley is a “cult” winery, and while their wines can be found in some of the very select wine stores and restaurants, one really have to be on their mailing list to have more universal access to their wines (Turley was the first mailing list I was accepted onto – give me a second and slice of lemon to extinguish smile on my face).
The second producer is called The Wine Guerrilla. While not as well known as Turley, they also produce a full range of Zinfandel wines from the different areas in California. It is interesting to point out that The Wine Guerrilla is the only producer (to the best of my knowledge), which doesn’t make any other wines but Zinfandel. When your slogan is “The Art And Soul of Zinfandel”, I guess this is rather appropriate.
I decanted both Turley and Wine Guerrilla Zinfandel for about 2 hours. Yes, I know this is not typical to use a decanter around Zinfandel, but both wineries make wines rather in restrained style, so I really wanted them to open up. First up – 2009 Turley Pesenti Vineyard Zinfandel Paso Robles (16% ABV). Even after two hours of decanting, the most I got on the nose was a hint of blackberries and some dark chocolate notes. The very first sip of the wine said “I’m big”. The first words which come to mind to describe this wine are “dense”, “firm”, “structured”. On the very firm structure the perfect fruit is weaved (hmm, interesting composition of the sentence – not a typical one for me, but I like it : ) ). More blackberries and dark chocolate on the palate, but also an “old world style” minerality was coming through, and then acidity was all in check. The wine is perfectly balanced, with tannins, alcohol, fruit and acidity being all together, in harmony. Drinkability: 8-
Now, let’s talk about 2010 Wine Guerrilla Mounts Vineyard Cypress Block Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma (15% ABV, 95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah, 300 cases produced). The wine showed a lot of dark fruit on the nose, mostly blackberries and cherries. On the palate, the wine was not as structurally dense as Turley, but instead it had layers of fruit with very nice luscious texture – ripe blackberries, cherries and dark chocolate, and a hint of eucalyptus. Very good acidity and overall nice and round wine, excellent balance. Drinkability: 8-
Did you notice a label of another Wine Guerrilla Zinfandel at the beginning of this post? It is there not for the purposes of decoration – it is actually another Wine Guerrilla Zinfandel which I had a week ago. 2010 Wine Guerrilla Monte Rosso Vineyard Block E44 Zinfandel Sonoma Valley (15% ABV, 200 cases produced) was totally unique in its style. To give you an idea, I would call it a Brunello of Zinfandels. After 2+ hours in decanter, the first thing which came to mind after the first sip was “dry”. This wine was soooo dry – uniquely dry for Zinfandel. It was also very herbaceous for the Zinfandel, with lots of dried herbs aromas, such as sage and oregano. It did show some fruit, but in very restrained, dialed back fashion. Definitely the most food friendly Zinfandel I ever tried, very balanced overall. Drinkability: 8
So I have to confess that I have one regret in regards to three wines I presented to you today. One, but big regret – I really want to taste these wines 10 years down the road! No, decanting didn’t do them any justice. These wines have to mature first, and then they will give you an ultimate pleasure. They were great and very enjoyable wines now, but they would become something much much bigger – if I would only have some spares…
Before we part, I want to share a few pictures from the Father’s day. Few weeks ago, my cousin got for me a new charcoal grill which is called “mangal” and it is mostly intended for making a kabob, but of course can be used as generic charcoal grill. Here are few pictures for you – with the warning – it might make you hungry…
That’s all I have for you for now. Ahh, before I will forget – don’t miss the WTSO Cheapskate Wednesday tomorrow, June 19th. Expected to appear are Benziger Pinot Noir, Rioja DOC Crianza, Provenance Merlot, Pomo Nation Cabernet, Expo Cabernet and Edenhall Shiraz, of course in addition to many many other wines. Cheers!
Disclaimer: The Wine Guerrilla wines were provided courtesy of Wine Guerrilla. But of course all opinions are my own.
In the words of my blogging friend thedrunkencyclist, yes, I’m a snob. Actually, in general, I think I’m not – but sometimes, especially when it comes to the ruined expectations, I guess that I’m.
Today I received a shipment from Turley Wine Cellars. Until now, Turley was a well known Zinfandel producer ( they also make Petite Sirah and Charbono). Their wines are reasonably priced, and you really should be on the mailing list in order to get them (practically not available in the regular wine stores).
As I’m on the Turley mailing list, about a month ago I received an offer to buy an inaugural release of 2010 Turley Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, creatively called The Label. I thought that it is definitely worth a try, a brand new wine from a reputable producer.
So the box arrived today. Cut, pull, take out very clever packaging (never saw anything like it), and I grab the bottle. My first reaction – WTF! I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but definitely not what I pulled out of the box. The bottle was very light, absolutely flat on the bottom (bad sign for a quality wine), and with its whole appearance was screaming “Cheap”! Mind you, this is a $40 bottle of wine, and if you will factor in shipping and taxes, it becomes $50 bottle of wine. The closest resemblance – Crane Lake from California, a $3.99 bottle of wine ( nothing against Crane Lake – I was happily drinking it many times). Here it is:
For comparison, here is The Label next to the traditional Turley Zinfandel:
Note that the foil on top of The Label bottle doesn’t even cover the cork inside! I rest my case…
I’m disappointed and completely flabbergasted. What should possess a reputable company to use that type of bottles? Were they completely out of time, and those bottles were the only thing available? Is this a message to the Cabernet lovers from Zinfandel producer, saying “Cabernet sucks”?
I’m really at loss here. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t judge the book by its cover – I will hopefully give it a try on Friday (need to give the wine a few days to recover from shipping and to avoid the bottle shock) – so once I will do it, I will be definitely glad to tell you what I think about the taste of the wine.
Yes, I’m a snob…
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!
Please let me be unique and different and write a blog post about Thanksgiving wines (duh – I meant let me pretend that hundreds of bloggers and wine writers didn’t cover the subject yet as broad as possible). In essence, I’m not planning to offer you any advice. I think the variety of tastes, favors and simply palate preferences at Thanksgiving table is way to wide to be able to do any essential wine and food pairing. Therefore, I would say that there are no limitations to what wines you should have on your table – you simply have to be able to enjoy them with or without food. As far as this blog post is concerned, as I said, I’m not going to offer any advice – I will simply tell you what I have in plans for the thanksgiving meal and why. I will list here way more wines than we will be actually able to consume, but hey, more is better than less, right?
You can definitely start with sparkler, but as I don’t have one ready, 2011 Beaujolais Noveau will do just fine. Why? It should be slightly chilled (let’s say to under 60F), then it is quite refreshing with all the red fruit and mouthwatering acidity – good way to get ready to Thanksgiving meal.
Chardonnay is a must, preferably one from US. Why? Because Chardonnay is one of the great American wines, producing very good results in all different areas from California to Long Island. I would recommend Chardonnay which was aged in the oak barrels and has some butter, vanilla and toasted oak – not the stainless steel-fermented one, which often tastes indistinguishable from Pinot Grigio. My personal choice is 2006 Cambria Bench Break Santa Maria Valley – this is one of my favorites since I tried that at The Capital Grill, and I’m curious to see how it is developing (I still have few bottles left). Besides, I don’t have Peter Michael as my allocation didn’t come through yet.
The next wine is a 2009 Cazar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Why? 2009 was a great year for California Pinot Noir, and this particular wine is simply meant for the Thanksgiving table with all the fresh and juicy cranberries and perfect acidity. I simply see this wine being great with turkey and many other dishes.
Amarone? Of course. Why? Simply because Amarone is one of my favorite wines, and every time we drink it, it is a special occasion. 2006 Luigi Righetti Capitel de Roari Amarone della Valpolicella is one of the simpler versions of a great wines ( also inexpensive compare to what Amarone typically costs), so I’m curious if it will work with the meal at all.
There can’t be Thanksgiving celebration without Zinfandel on the table. Why? Zinfandel is unique grape which doesn’t grow anywhere else outside of United States (with the exception of the close relative, Primitivo, which grows in Italy). Zinfandel has a unique flavor profile with lots of fresh berries and lots of power on the palate, which should bode well with the festive Thanksgiving meal. 2009 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel from Napa Valley is simply one of the great California Zinfandels, and I’m glad we will be able to share a bottle (it is not easy to get).
Time for desert. I’m selecting Bodegas Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Triana. Why? First of all, this is the very old wine – as Jerez is made using Solera method, with new wines constantly blended with the older ones, this wine started at around 1750, so it can definitely serve as historic reference to the great holiday. And the second reason – this wine simply tastes phenomenal. I already wrote about it in one of the previous posts – the richness and the balance of this wine should really be experienced by any wine lover.
Will we drink all of these wines? Probably not. Will there be other wines on Thanksgiving table? You bet. Of course I will report on all the wonderful food and wine experience once the holiday is over, but for now I will be glad to hear what wines do you plan to have on your table.
That’s all, folks. Happy Thanksgiving and Cheers!