Sunday, January 29, 2012

2009 Umani Ronchi Podere Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

In the Glass: Medium cherry red
On the Nose: Red fruit and violets predominate with  leather overtones.

On the Palate: Simple and fresh flavors of sour cherry and leather. Slightly sour finish of strawberries. Very little tannins or oak detected. Needs no further bottle aging, but should hold up well for the next 2-3 years.
Style: Light and fresh.

Rating: 87/100.

Price Range: $10.00-12.00. This wine is available at selective wine shops and online.

Comments: This wine is produced from 100% organically grown Montepulciano grapes from the Montipagano region of Abruzzi. After destemming and a soft pressing, must is let to ferment at a temperatureof 26-28°C in a steel tank for 10/12 days. Once alcoholic fermentation is completed, wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, after which part of the winegoes through a short refining period in a oak barrels. UMANI RONCHI has been in the Bianchi-Bernetti family for almost fifty years, having been founded as an Azienda Agricola (agricultural company) in 1957 by Gino Umani Ronchi at Cupramontana, in the heart of the production area of Verdicchio Classico, in the Marche Region. In 2002 the winery purchased a 30 hectare holding in the Teramane hills, a designated sub-area of Doc Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and has been producing this wine from the harvest there since 2003. This is a classic Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wine made in a less severe and oaked version than the ones you may be accustomed to. Yet it retains all the fine characteristics of the varietal Montepulciano grape. I would serve this wine with a Vitello Tonnato, tomato based dishes and pastas, as well as rosemary infused lamb shanks.

2008 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Escudo Rojo

In the Glass: Black cherry red

On the Nose: A bit off putting at first with some barnyard scents. Upon airing you get some nice red fruit and leather aromas. Chocolate nuances.

On the Palate: Black cherry, blueberry dominates with a finish of bitter chocolate and currants. More complex than most red wines at this price point, but seems to lack balance. Very little tannins detected. Needs no further bottle aging, but should hold up well for the next 2-3 years. Decanting helps bring out the fruit to the nose.

Style: Smooth and supple.

Rating: 87/100.

Price Range: $10.00-14.00. This wine is available at selective wine shops and online.

Comments: This red blend from the Maipo Valley of Chile is an effort from Baron Philippe de Rothschild's winery in that country. "Escudo Rojo" means red shield in Spanish and is derived from the Rothschild name which means the same in German. This wine is elaborated in the classic french Bordeaux style of blending to create a smooth and complex variety of flavors. Generally contains 25-27% Carmenère, 7-10% Syrah, 55-58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8-10% Cabernet Franc. The grapes used to make this wine are hand-picked, then blended, and spend 12 months in French oak before being bottled. While I find it an enjoyable wine and very easy to drink, I think the winery tries too hard to imitate the classic Bordeaux blend and ends up with a slightly off balance result. The other varietals seem to overpower the Carmenere and all but offset it, which is a shame since I am a big fan of the flavors it can impart on a good blend by other Chilean winemakers. This wine will go well with lamb dishes, beef roasts or as a stand alone quaff!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Baugier Thunevin Cotes du Roussillon 2006

In the Glass: Deep garnet red

On the Nose: Sweet strawberry and red fruit. Cardamon nuances.

On the Palate: Raspberry and licorice predominate with white pepper overtones. Nice balance of powerful red fruit flavors offset by slightly bitter taste at the back of the tongue. This wine will age well over the next 3-4 years and smooth out, but perfectly drinkable now.

Style: Smooth and peppery.

Rating: 88/100. Will improve a bit with some aging in the bottle!

Price Range: $8.00-10.00. This wine is available at selective wine shops and on line.

CommentsA special cuvee selected by Jean-Luc Thunevin (owner of Chateau Valandraud) and Patrick Baugier, a noted importer of Bordeaux. Produced by Cave Cooperative of Maury, one of the VERY best in the South of France according to Robert Parker, this wine is sourced from old Grenache, Syrah, Carignan vines on limestone and schist soils. What a nice juicy wine! Well built, with an extremely fine balance of powerful red fruit flavors backed up by a firm yet silky structure and light pepper accents on the long finish. Will pair nicely with beef roasts, game, grilled meats, veal, stews, aged cheeses. Tailor made for a nice coq au vin or beouf bourguignon!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

2010 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja

In the Glass: Deep glass coating purplish red

On the Nose: Cola, plums and asian spices predominantly, with a nice hint of strawberries.

On the Palate: Tongue coating black fruit flavors with a nice finish of leather, licorice and hot pepper at the back of the throat. Strong tannins indicate this wine will age well over the next 3-4 years and smooth out a bit.

Style: Smooth and peppery.

Rating: 89/100. Amazing value at this price!

Price Range: $6.00-8.00. This wine is widely available at wine shops and supermarkets throughout the U.S. and Canada

Comments: Bodegas Borsao has been producing award winning reasonably priced wines based on the Garnacha grape over the last few years. Borsao is the ancient name of the Campo de Borja region, long known for production of Garnacha. Their higher priced Tres Picos label (priced around $13-17) is consistently highly rated by Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. This 2010 Borsao Garnacha is composed of 85% Garnacha(Grenache grape) and 15% Tempranillo fermented and aged in stainless steel. Aromas of Asian spices, plums and assorted black fruits are suprisingly complex for such a cheap wine. Supple, concentrated and lengthly on the palate, this excellant value should provide enjoyment over the next 4 years. Rated 88 Points Wine Advocate, I'd give it a slightly higher rating with its potential for improvement from further bottle aging. This wine would pair exceptionally well with roast pork dishes, as well as spicy indian curries.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Understanding Spanish Red Wines- A Primer on the three main regions

Spain has been producing wine as far back as the 6th Century BC. The Roman naturalist Gayus Plinius mentions a Spanish wine from the Barcelona area of Catalunya at that time called coccolobis that supposedly was imported by the Romans as a healthy wine and wine that benefitted the liver. Today Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world and there are many regions that are recognized under a 1986 law with the “denominacion de origen” or D.O. which certifies the wine as being from a particular region. Prior to the recent past, only two wine growing regions in Spain had formal legal recognition. Following the establishment of the Rioja as the first Spanish denominación in 1925, the Estatuto de Vino of 1932 coincided with national and international recognition of the sherry-producing region of Jerez. Out of all these regions, however, the finest quality red wines are predominantly from Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero. Only the Rioja and Priorat regions qualify as Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa), the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations,

Rioja wine is made from grapes grown not only in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja, but also in parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions. The principal varietal of the region is the Tempranillo grape, which tradional wineries will blend with a small amount of the other three predominant varietals grown in that region, Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo. Modern winemaking in La Rioja dates back to the 1850s when French wine making techniques for viticulture and winemaking were introduced in the region. Tempranillo contributes the main flavors and aging potential to the wine; Garnacha adds body and alcohol; Mazuelo provides seasoning flavors and Graciano contibutes additional aromas. Some wineries, Marques de Riscal most notably, have received special dispensation to include Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, due to historical inclusion of that grape in their wine that predates the formation of the Consejo Regulador. However, a traditional red Rioja wine will always contain at least 60% Tempranillo in the blend and are always aged to some degree in oak casks. Rioja red wines are classified into four categories. The first, simply labeled Rioja, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel. A crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak. Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak. Finally, Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are only produced in select years that the winery determines are worthy of aging.

Priorat wine is produced exclusively from grapes produced in the Priorat region to the southwest area of Catalonia. Monastaries in this region are known to have produced wine since the 12th Century. At the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera pest devastated the vineyards in this region as they did in most of France. It was not until the 1950s that replanting was undertaken. The DO Priorat was formally created in 1954. The seat of the DO's regulatory body was initially Reus, some 30 km to the east of this region, rather than in Priorat itself. The DOQ comprises the valleys of the rivers Siurana and Montsant. The vineyards are planted on the slopes on terraces at altitudes of between 100 m and 700 m above sea level. The traditional grape variety grown in El Priorat is the red Garnacha Tinta, which is found in all the older vineyards. The other authorized grapes are the following red varieties: Garnacha Peluda, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The traditional reds from El Priorat are either 100% Garnacha or a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena. Crianza wines must remain in oak barrels for 6 months and then 18 months in the bottle. Reserva wines must remain in oak barrels for 12 months and then 24 months in the bottle. Gran Reserva wines remain in oak barrels for 24 months and then 36 months in the bottle.Few wineries follow these guidelines strictly, and the usual practice is to produce what is known as vino de guarda (aged wine) that has been in oak barrels for 18 months followed by 6 months in the bottle, the optimal moment for consumption being 2 years later. Hence, unlike the unique varietal character of La Rioja, Priorat wines are made and blended from grape varieties almost exactly like those used in the great wine growing regions of France and therefore share a similar taste and style attributes with traditional French wines.

Ribera del Duero is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) located in the country's northern plateau and is one of eleven 'quality wine' regions within the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is also one of several recognized wine-producing regions to be found along the course of the Duero river.The region is characterized by a largely flat, rocky terrain and is centered in the town of Aranda de Duero, although the most famous vineyards surround Peñafiel and Roa de Duero to the west, where the regional regulatory council or Consejo Regulador for the denominación is based..Ribera del Duero is home to the world-famous and highly-prized Vega Sicilia and Tinto Pesquera wines and is dedicated almost entirely to the production of red wine from the Tempranillo grape. There are other similarities between Rioja and Ribera del Duero, besides the predominance of the Tempranillo grape. Whereas the wines are quite distinctive as a result of significant differences in terroir, both regions produce wines selected for long aging with highly complex vinification procedures, producing intense, extremely long-lived wines. Wines are classified as much for their longevity as their grape quality, and Ribera del Duero produces some extremely well-aging wines. On the other hand, Ribera del Duero wines share similarities with the Priorat region in that they share a connection to French style elaboration with Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot varietals. Interestingly, Tinto Pesquera, grown by Alejandro Fernández in Pesquera de Duero, is always a 100% Tempranillo varietal wine like a fine Rioja.Vega Sicilia, on the other hand, produces wines made by blending with Garnacha and other varietals as in the Priorat region.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Renwood Zinfandel Sierra Foothills 2006

In the Glass: Light garnet color

On the Nose: Cherry, leather and white pepper notes

On the Palate: Sour cherry, raspberry and nutmeg with a hint of oak. Very clean finish with the spicyness of pepper predominant. Much more of a traditional claret character than most California zinfandels. This wine is ready to drink now and does not seem to have any cellaring potential. Tannins are almost negligible. Decanting for an hour or so is recommended and will bring out caramel after tones on the finish.

Style: Smooth, fresh and spicy

Rating: 88/100

Price Range: $8.00-10.00. Widely available at most wine stores.

Comments: This California zinfandel was a pleasant surprise. It was a light and spicy wine with just the right complexity to make it interesting and easy to drink! I am not a big fan of the latest style in California zinfandels that are correctly described as "fruit bombs". This is much more in the style of an Italian primitivo varietal wine elaboration from Puglia, where the zinfandel grape hails from originally. Renwood winery is quite famous for their higher priced black label zinfandels that are produced from 150 year old vines, the oldest in California. The red label wines from Renwood winery are produced from their younger vines and are much simpler than their high-end wines in the Sierra foothills.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Victor Berard Côtes du Rhône 2009

In the Glass: Purplish deep red.

On the Nose: Loads of fruit with cherry and strawberry fragrances.

On the Palate: Warm spicy wine very typical of the region of jammy fruit that has a soft peppery taste at the back of the tongue coming from the Grenache and Syrah varietals. Some minerality and dustiness at the finish. This wine can be enjoyed when it is young but will also age well over the next 2-5 years.

Style: Light and fresh

Rating: 89/100.

Price Range: $8.00- 12.00. Available at most wine stores.

Comments: This is a delightfully light fresh wine that represents the Rhône Valley handsomely! The Rhone Valley has had an unprecedented number of outstanding vintages in this first decade of the 2000's. 2009 is the latest and it's on par with or better than the brilliant 2007 according to the Wine Spectator. This example is elaborated with Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah varietals. Victor Berard is a negociant operation based at Romaneche Thorins, a small town only a couple of miles east of Fleurie but just outside the appellation boundaries. While he is mostly known for his selection of delicious beaujolais, this wine just serves to affirm his excellent wine selection process. This wine is delicious for summer quaffing alone, with crudites and with most light pasta dishes. Will also compliment lightly grilled white fleshed fish like Mahi Mahi and Grouper very well. I paired it with farfalle pasta tossed with olive oil, fresh basil leaves and garlic and it was a big hit.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2005

In the Glass: Bright cherry red with good depth.

On the Nose: Strong aromas of sour cherry, spices, oak and earthy hints. This wine should be decanted for at least an hour before serving.

On the Palate: Mouth filling flavors of black cherry and other dark fruits offset by tobacco, cedar and toasted oak. Smooth and long finish with good fruit and oaky nuances. Solid tannins assure that this wine will improve over the next 5 years and age well over the next 15-20 years.

Style: Austere and elegant.A classic rioja reserva!

Rating: 92/100. Both Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar rate this a 90, but I think it is a bit better than that.

Price Range: $14.00-$18.00. Widely available at wine shops as well as most upscale grocery chains.

Comments: If you want to know what a classic Spanish red rioja wine should taste like, this is it! This winery is considered one of the greatest wineries in the Rioja region. In 1858 Herederos de Marqués de Riscal became the first winery in the Rioja to produce wines following the Bordeaux method. This 2005 is hand picked using only the best grapes of the vintage made from 90% Tempranillo with a 10% blending of Mazuelo & Graciano, and aged in American oak barrels for 2 years before bottling for a year before release, thereby softening the tannins a bit. It is already showing the promise of being a spectacular vintage and, at this price, you should buy as much as you can. It will not last at these prices! Pairs well with all beef dishes as well as salmon and shellfish. I love to sip it with the classic spanish accompaniments: chorizo sausage and manchego cheese.

Friday, January 13, 2012

San Telmo Esencia Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

In the Glass: Dark purplish red

On the Nose: Cherry and candied fragrance with eucalyptus and mint overtones

On the Palate: Plum and black cherry flavors with brown sugar nuances. Relatively short finish and a hint of oak. Soft tannins and ready to drink right now. Does not require any extensive airing, but opens up nicely if left open for about 1/2 hour before drinking.

Style: Smooth and supple.

Rating: 87/100

Price Range: $8.00-$10.00. Availability is limited to a few wine stores in the area.

Comments: This is a nice new style cabernet sauvignon whose style is pretty common for the Mendoza region of Argentina. Fresh and easy style for quaffing alone or with cheeses, tomato based pasta or hamburgers. I paired it with a hearty beef stew and it worked quite well.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Merlot 2009

In the Glass: Opulent deep crimson red that coats the glass.

On the Nose:  Rich scents of mint and red currants. Benefits from decanting one hour before consumption.

On the Palate: Complex flavors of plum and blackberries with a touch of oak and vanilla at the finish that develops slowly on the palate. Medium tannins and spiciness at the back of the tongue.  Extremely well balanced wine.

Style: Big and bold

Rating: 91/100

Price Range: $16.00-19.00. Good availability at wine shops in the area. I would buy a few bottles to put away for further aging.

Comments: Terrific wine at a great price point. Much more complex and elegant than a typical merlot. From hand picked grapes from the Peumo vinyard in the Rapel Valley and aged for 18 months in french oak casks. Shows good aging potential over the next 3-5 years. I expect this wine to improve quite a bit with another 1-2 years in the bottle. Had this wine with New Year's dinner of roast duck and worked perfectly in this pairing.