Friday, January 18, 2019

Oregon Pinot Noir Bridges Cali-Burgundy Gap

Lenné Estate is in Yamhill County, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  They say "site is everything," and they have a minimalist approach to making wine.  They say the grapes are good enough to do the heavy lifting themselves.  They boast of having some of the poorest soil in the county, which makes the vines work harder to squeeze out their tiny, concentrated grapes.  The 20-acre vineyard produces three different lines of Pinot, and Le Nez is one of them. 

Their website proclaims "deep root Pinot Noir," which I don't think has anything to do with Dr. Cross Deep-Root Hair Oil, a late-night mainstay on some flamethrower radio station across the border from Texas.  If it does, I stand corrected.  Do you think the label is a little too "on the nose?"

The 2015 Lenné Estate Le Nez Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is nearly a third composed of Pommard, 115 and 777 clones with the rest made up of clones 667 and 114.  It's bottled under the Yamhill-Carlton appellation, racks up 14.2% abv and sells for $35.

This is a medium-dark Pinot Noir with a nose that screams about the earth.  Dark and dirty, the aromas center on forest floor, coffee grounds and black tea.  That's right up my alley, unless we're talking Pinot Noir.  Then I prefer something more subdued and elegant.  The palate, however, gets more along those lines.  There's some tea, and some dark berry, and they get along great together.  It's not exactly Burgundian, but it's not California, either.  It strikes a beautiful middle ground.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Oregon Chardonnay Recalls Earlier Style

The wines of Alloro Vineyard grow in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, on a plot of land where there is a working farm, 100 acres of sheep, cattle, fruit and nuts.  The 34-acre vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Muscat grapes. 

The Alloro 2016 Chardonnay is aged in French oak, 10% of which is new.  Alcohol tips 13.7% abv and it retails for $34.

The 2016 Alloro Vineyards Chehalem Mountains Chardonnay serves as a sort of bridge between old-style and modern Chardonnay.  It has an oaky presence, but not one that's off-putting.  You'll get a whiff of it on the nose, but it's the tropical fruit you'll remember.  The mouth is quite full and juicy, with a nice acidity and a medium finish.  I paired it with a gumbo and was quite pleased.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Hello? Grenache Department, Please

From the Cotes Catalanes region in southwest France's Languedoc-Roussillon, Others is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  It's made by Dave Phinney, who says he fell in love with the land around Maury on his first visit there.  He says the red soil is peppered with black schist, granite and limestone.  He not only fell in love with the dirt, but also the people.  So much so that he has a home there.  His Department 66 winery is also located there.

The 2015 wine is imported by Bloodlines of Sausalito, California, rings the bell in strength at 15.2% abv and sells for $25.

This deep, dark Grenache shows a bit of savory funk on the nose, with black olives, meat and tobacco coming through.  The palate has cherry and dark berry flavors, along with chalky, earthy notes.  The mouthfeel is full and refreshing, with enough tannic structure to handle a steak, or any other meat dish.  The finish lingers awhile, which is a pleasure.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Pinot Gris With Pluck

The lion on the Hess label represents the winery and its founder Donald Hess.  With estates in Argentina and South Africa as well as Napa Valley, this winery really gets around.  Hess staked out a claim on Napa's Mount Veeder in the 1970s, when there was still room to move around.  He retired in 2011 and passed the torch to the 5th generation of the family to carry on old traditions and forge new ones.  Dave Guffy is only the second person to lead the winemaking team at Hess. 

For the 2017 Hess Select Pinot Gris, the winery promises the best vineyards are used in sourcing the grapes, but the California appellation means they were not all in the same region.  The Hess Select Pinot Gris was fermented in stainless steel tanks and never touched oak.  That helps keep the fruit in the forefront.  Winemaker Guffy's team stirred the lees, the spent yeast cells, periodically to add body to the finished wine.  Alcohol is pretty rich, at 14.2% abv, and the wine retails for $13, but is sold out on the website.

This is a delightful white wine.  I'm usually not wowed by fruity, floral whites.  I like 'em with salt and savory as the lead players, but this one wins me over.  Flowers burst from the nose, but there's an underlying earthiness that grabs me.  Peaches and apricots hit the taste buds with a very faint sense of citrus to hold the reins.  Nice acidity, nothing too abrasive, but very refreshing.  I had mine with a mix of roasted nuts and it was very tasty.  I was able to sip and not think about it too much, which is fine sometimes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Easy Drinking Italian Bargain Red

Citra Vini, an association of wineries in Abruzzo established in 1973, covers a lot of ground in Chieti.  The winegrowing group is located near the Majella, a limestone massif in the Apennine mountain range, Gran Sasso, the highest peak around and the Adriatic Sea. 

Their website explains a bit of the storied history of the Montepulciano grape.  Hannibal reportedly gave the wine to his soldiers for its supposed restorative powers, and Ovid praised it in a poem.   The Citra umbrella shades a lot of labels, and this would appear to their bargain brand, as it sells for less than ten bucks.

There was scant information available about the wine, but a winemaking team of 19 worked on it, so at least they had a lot of experience in the cellar.  Alcohol hits a reasonable 13% abv.

Citra Vini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017

The nose on this 2017 Italian wine is a bit fuzzy at first, but the cherries and blackberries are there, along with a strong initial whiff of chocolate.  It's medium-ruby in color and offers cherry, black cherry and a hint of raspberry on the palate.  Tannins are reasonable, if not very firm, and the acidity is quite refreshing.  I snacked it with a hard Italian cheese, the name of which escapes me.  Pair it with meat or tomato sauce dishes and you'll be fine.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Paso Robles Wine: DAOU Dinner

A partnership between Black Angus restaurants and DAOU Vineyards is being celebrated by both parties.  A wine pairing dinner was held recently at the chain's Lakewood, CA restaurant.  The wines were paired with special dishes prepared by executive Chef David Boloson, with personality and background provided by Georges Daou.  The dinner showcased the new design of Black Angus, which is set to roll out in 2019, while pairing seasonal favorites with DAOU wines that are now on the restaurant's list.

Black Angus is going with a rodeo nouveau decor, with arty old-west touches - black-and-white photos of cow skulls, rope and saddles are framed in brown wood with silver spur flourishes. It's fancy without being intimidating.

The evening started with a white wine opener, DAOU's Chemin de Fleur, a blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne.  It is floral and savory at once, with great notes from all three grapes showing nicely amid an old-California dose of oak treatment.

The wine carried me nicely through one of those mingling sessions where I knew not a soul.  As usual, I gravitated to a freelancer - this one a USA Today contributor - who could not stop name dropping.  Spago, the Polo Club, the Four Seasons, ugh, she was "so over it all."  She said Ryan Gosling wanted her to come to a party that night, and I have no idea why she ended up in Lakewood instead.

Georges Daou and his brother Daniel are from Lebanon, having come of age with bombs bursting outside the kitchen window.  They would escape to their grandfather's farm and play among the olive trees.  They later escaped to the rest of the world, traveling the globe for education and careers.  Their stint in medical technology rewarded them richly and allowed them to retire while still in their thirties.  Then, they happened upon Paso Robles while searching for a place to grow and make wine.  The Daou brothers' 220 acres in the Adelaide AVA were more than Georges ever dreamed of having.

The Wines

DAOU Chardonnay 2017 - Oaky tropical fruit on the nose, buttery mango, pineapple and citrus flavors, with a great acidity.  Paired wonderfully with the crab cake and lemon aioli.

DAOU Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 - Aged ten months in half French oak.  Lovely aromas - perfumed, blue and blackberry with Paso earth.  The palate offers dark fruit with an earthy overlay, fabulous acidity and very firm tannins.  It paired perfectly with lamb in a blueberry cab reduction with roasted veggies.

DAOU Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 - Aged 20 months half new French oak, dry farmed in limestone-based soil.  Earthy, minty dark fruit on the nose shades a hint of anise.  Very earthy blackberry and cassis on the palate, with excellent acidity and firm tannins. It paired with the beef Wellington, black truffle demiglace, lobster mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Pessimist Red Blend 2017 - A Rhône blend with zinfandel, it was served with panna cotta, blackberries in choc truffle sauce. It scored in that setting, with a floral perfume on the mocha-tinged nose and flavors of dark fruit, licorice and cassis.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

Petite Sirah Loves Lake County

The 2016 Two Angels Red Hills Petite Sirah is a 100% varietal wine from the Red Hills area of the Lake County AVA.  The hills are nestled along Clear Lake, at the foot of an active volcano which has not erupted in eleven-thousand years, but we're keeping an eye on it anyway.  No doubt, that ancient force left its mark on the iron-rich red soil of the area.

The intriguing label art was created by 16th century Flemish artist Jacob DeBacker.  The winery explains that the theme of the piece is the "hilarity of inebriation and the trauma of the morning after."  They say, "Excessive joy must be countered by equally excessive sorrow, with penitential atonement for pleasure."  So, no "hair of the dog" if you overdo it.

This wine's Petite Sirah grapes were hand-harvested and destemmed before fermentation.  Aging took place over nine months in French Oak, 20% of which was new.  This wine's fourth vintage comes in at 14.3% abv and it retails for about $30.

The wine is so purple it's just about black.  The nose is amazing - so full of smoked meat and black olives you'd think you were in a deli.  Forest floor plays in, as do blackberry and blueberry notes.  The palate matches those descriptors with maybe a little more of that dark fruit showing, but it's still a savory treat.  The tannins work well but don't get in the way of the sip.  Bring in the meats, or pair with some blue cheese.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

One Particular Garnacha Rosé

Founded in 1944 by 60 winegrowers in Spain's Cariñena region, Bodegas San Valero is now 700 winegrowers strong, with more than 8,600 acres of vines.  The Cariñena region is in the middle of the Ebro river valley, in Zaragoza, Aragon.  The region earned the first Designation of Origin in the Aragon region in 1932.

The Particular line features a rosé made from Garnacha grapes, which in some necks of the woods are called Grenache.  The website says this is the wine that winemakers make when they make wine for themselves.  Just a few hours on the skins gives the pale coloring of the wine.  Stainless steel fermentation keeps the aromas and flavors fresh.  The pink wine hits only 11.5% abv and it’s pretty inexpensive.

The 2017 Particular Garnacha Rose is a pale wine that doesn't smell inexpensive.  The nose bursts with strawberry and cherry aromas, and there's a hint of the stems adding an herbal twist.  The same fruit holds on the palate in fairly simple fashion, with a bit of lime to go along with a zippy acidity.  It tastes almost tart, but holds instead with an extremely herbal sensibility.  It's not elegant, if that's what you're looking for, but it holds its own with a ham sandwich.

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Livermore Valley Cab That Rocks It

Winemaker Robbie Meyer took to Snooth awhile back to discuss the latest vintages from Murrieta's Well, in California’s Livermore Valley, including a small lot Cabernet Sauvignon that was pre-release at the time.  It's now available, but likely won't be for long due to the small production.

The vines of the Murrieta's Well estate vineyards were first planted in 1884 by Louis Mel with cuttings from the notable Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux properties, says the winery.  Mel sold the property, lock, stock and wine barrel, to Ernest Wente in the 1930s, and it's still part of the Wente Family estate.  Today, Meyer personally selects grapes from all over the five hundred acres. 

He says there is "nothing quite like growing fruit in the vineyard, caring for it in the winery and crafting it into something people can enjoy."  Through the growing, the harvesting and the fermentation, Meyer says blending is where he sees the real art of winemaking.

The 2015 Murrieta's Well Cabernet Sauvignon hails from one of California's lesser-heralded wine regions, the Livermore Valley.  It's 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec, clocking in at 14.2% abv.  The wine got stainless steel fermentation and 18 months aging in French oak, 80% new, 20% second and third use.  Only  27 barrels were produced, and it was released in the fall at $58 retail.

The grapes are estate grown, in their Sachau Vineyard right behind the winery's tasting room.  Some of the Cab came from their Louis Mel Vineyard. 

This is an extremely dark wine with plenty to offer on the nose and palate.  Aromas of cassis are joined by cedar, anise, vanilla and a bit of mint.  The flavors are explosive, with blackberries and cherries prominent, savory spice and a zippy acidity to frame the firm tannins.  It's a steak wine, really, but it goes well with stew or chili, too.

Friday, December 28, 2018

An Argentine Refresher, Mixer

New Age bills itself splashily as America's #1 Argentine White Wine.  The blend of 90% Torrontés and 10% Sauvignon Blanc is undeniably pleasant, and understandably popular.  The company says New Age is enjoyed most often in Argentina's cafes, bars and clubs "as a Tincho - served over ice with a slice of lime."  They also offer on the label a couple of tasty-sounding recipes for using New Age in cocktails.

New Age Wines are made by Bodegas Valentin Bianchi, a fourth-generation, family-owned winery that got its start in 1928.  From sustainably farmed vineyards in the country's San Rafael region in Mendoza, the naturally sweet mouthfeel comes from stopping the fermentation at the halfway point by spinning it in a centrifuge.  I have never heard of that method, but it's on their website. 

The lightly sparkling wine is light enough at 9% abv so that it won’t weigh you down.  A great aperitif, or in one of the on-label cocktail recipes, This wine will also be a great pair with spicy dishes like Thai or Indian cuisine.

This off-dry white wine pours up a bit fizzy, but the bubbles dissipate quickly.  The nose is highly aromatic, like white flowers and a hint of earth and tangerine.  On the palate, the slightly sweet flavor is the highlight.  Unfortunately there isn't much acidity, so just enjoy as an afternoon sipper or in a cocktail.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Australian Old-Vine Shiraz

The Kay Brothers - Herbert and Frederick - formed a winery in 1890 in the Australian town of McLaren Vale.  The area is south of Adelaide in South Australia, right next to St. Vincent Gulf.  Their Amery Vineyard produces grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nero d' Avola, Grenache, Mataro, Muscat Blanc and a little thing they like to call Shiraz.

The grapes for this wine come from Block 6 of the vineyard, hence the catchy name.  The winery says that Block 6 was planted in 1892, which makes the vines well over 120 years old.  The process of establishing the winery was meticulously recorded in a family diary, some of which is available to read on their website.  The brothers put their backs into running the winery for 57 years, before death claimed them just one year apart.  The following generations were led by Cud Kay, and now Colin KayDuncan Kennedy is the Kay Brothers' senior winemaker.

The 2014 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards Block 6 Shiraz is the 32nd wine in the flagship series.  The grapes were handpicked from those century-and-a-quarter-old vines.  The 3½ acres which make up Block 6 have varied soil which the vines call home.  The winery says the earth ranges from red loam to heavy clay to gravelly alluvial soils. They say the underlying "South Maslin Sands" geology is extremely complex, with layers of glauconite, limestone, sandstone and siltstone.  Which translates to minerals, minerals, minerals.

The juice for the wine spent ten days on the skins after pressing for maximum color extraction.  Aging took place over a nearly two-year span, in French and American oak barrels, 40% of which were new.  The oak plays a supporting role to the fruit in the Block 6 wine, as it should.  Alcohol hits 14% abv and at $95 retail, the wine is by far the most expensive in the Kay Brothers line.

This Australian Shiraz has four years of age on it.  The dark wine displays a nose rich with flinty minerals, pretty flowers and black and blue fruit.  The palate shows similar, but a little heavier on the fruit.  Still, the earth is plainly there along with cigar box, sage and licorice.  There's a zippy acidity and some fairly youthful tannins which invite a pairing with your favorite steak.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas From Now And Zin Wine!

We at Now And Zin are busy today, opening all those gifts, snacking on that stocking full of cashew nuts and dining on that roast beast before the Grinch gets at it.

May you and your loved ones enjoy the happiest of holidays, filled with joy, wonder and love.

May you enjoy wine to the fullest in the coming year, find new wines to love and love your old favorites even more.  Remember that the best thing about wine is sharing it with someone.

And while we're at it, a very smart man once offered a seasonal wish that bears repeating more now than ever: "A very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.  Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear."

Merry Christmas, and Cheers!  From Now And Zin Wine.

Monday, December 24, 2018

German Wines: Pinot Gris

German wines tend to fall beneath the U.S. wine drinker's radar.  Aside from Riesling, one could be hard-pressed to find a German grape variety or even a German version of a more familiar grape, on a supermarket shelf.  Specialty wine stores will dig deeper, but depending on their inventory they may not have a very wide selection.  With this in mind I was thrilled to be asked to participate in an online tasting event involving German wines, with Matthew Kaner, wine director and partner at several wine bars in the Los Angeles area.

Kaner says of the new world of German wine, "there’s more than just Riesling," and he went on during the event to cover a Muller-Thurgau, a Pinot Blanc and a Pinot Gris as well as a Riesling.

Another invite appfreciated "the brightness, raciness, and lower alcohol levels in these wines," noting that "those characteristics are trademarks of Germany's refreshing, cool-climate wines. Not to mention their food-friendly nature"  That guy knows what he's talking about. 

Weinreich Basisweiss Pinot Gris 2017

Weingut Weinreich is located in a part of Rheinhessen called Wonnegau.  The owner writes that people seemed to either work at refineries or used car lots, which sounds a lot like how a friend of mine described our southeast Texas hometown.  The younger generation took over the winery a decade ago and is reportedly keeping the old ways farming organically and harvesting by hand, as grandpa did.

The wine is a Pinot Gris, known in Germany as Grauburgunder.  Alcohol is restrained at 12.5% abv and it retails for about 12 bucks.  The southwestern U.S. desert motif on the label may possibly indicate how dry the wine is.

This beautiful German Pinot Gris is only faintly aromatic with a chalky nose that features mainly limes.  The palate gets some apple in with the citrus and has a healthy dose of minerals, too.  Acidity is rippingly fantastic and the finish is loaded with fruity wet rocks. 

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Michigan Wine: Old Mission Peninsula

The locals call it paradise on a peninsula.  Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula wine region sticks out of the northwestern edge of the state's main body, into Lake Michigan.  Situated on the 45th parallel, about the same latitude where you find Bordeaux, it's a 19-mile spit which juts northward and forms the east and west sides of Grand Traverse Bay.  It's only four miles wide at its broadest point.  They grow wine grapes there.  The blue waters surrounding the land are some 600 feet deep, that produces what they call a "lake effect" which I am told protects the vines with snow in winter, slows bud break in spring to avoid frost damage, and extends the growing season by up to four weeks.

There's a thriving wine AVA on the strip of land, along with breweries and distilleries.  I've tasted Michigan wines before and found them to be of very high quality, so I had high expectations when the OMP reps sent some of their wines to me for review.  I was not disappointed.

At the base of the peninsula is Traverse City, which is where Two Lads Winery is located.  They have 23 acres of sustainably farmed grapes and make a variety of wines, mostly red.  Their tasting room boasts a view of the east bay.

Two Lads Winery Bold Cabernet Franc 2016

The wine - 85% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot - was allowed to complete full malolactic fermentation, creating a fuller mouthfeel and weight, then aged for nine months.  45% of that aging took place in stainless steel tanks, 40% in used oak barrels and 15% in a large French oak tank.  The alcohol content is blessedly restrained at 13.3% abv and it retails for $35.

The wine is excellent.  A nose that promises blackberries and chocolate is followed by a palate that is dark, rich and complex.  The fruit has accompanying notes of black pepper, anise and mocha.  The mouthfeel is smooth, yet the tannins are firm enough for a ribeye.  Don't limit yourself, though.  This is a great wine for a chocolate pairing, the darker and richer, the better.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Kosher Wine: Aussie Sauvignon Blanc

This Australian Sauvignon Blanc is billed as an inexpensive and refreshing white wine, which it is, but it’s also kosher. Under the Royal Wine global umbrella of fine kosher wines, Teal Lake is crafted by family winemaker Andrew Peace. He works from vines planted a quarter century ago in the dirt of the Murray River valley.

The wine hits 13% abv for alcohol and is Mevushal kosher. You can read up on Mevushal here - it's a fascinating explanation - but to boil it down for you, Mevushal wines are flash pasteurized (they used to be boiled) so they can be served to Jews by those outside the faith. This does some damage to the aromas and flavors, although reportedly not as much as boiling did. The wine retails for $12.

This kosher Australian Sauvignon Blanc smells lightly of grass, but not to the extent that a New Zealand SauvBlanc does. There are citrus and minerals, too, but it's altogether a fairly tame, and pleasant, aroma. Acidity is fresh, the palate shows Meyer lemon and minerals in a tasty, if not compelling, scenario.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Dry Creek Valley Zin Via Kokomo

Winemaker Erik Miller moved from Indiana early this century to satisfy his wine itch.  He picked a good spot, Sonoma County, although as owner of Kokomo Wines, he also sources grapes from other growers in Dry Creek Valley and other areas of the county.

Named after Miller's Indiana hometown, Kokomo was established in 2004 on Dry Creek Valley's east side. His grower-partner Randy Peters is a fourth-generation farmer who raises grapes in Sonoma's Dry Creek , Russian River and Alexander valleys.

The winery is located in Timber Crest Farms, where Zinfandel has been growing for 150 years.  Miller uses the cuttings from those plants to start new vines. His winemaking philosophy involves letting the grapes speak for themselves, up to a point.  Miller strives for firm tannins, but not to overpower.  He wants vibrant and expressive aromas and flavors, but without overuse of oak.

The 2016 Kokomo Zinfandel from Pauline's Vineyard is made from grapes grown across the street from the winery.  The vines are of a clone that was planted on the property in the 1800s by Peters' grandfather. The wine was aged for eleven months in half French and half other European oak, about a third of which was new.  Alcohol hits a predictably high 15.5% abv and it retails for $36.

This deep, rich Zin lets no light through the glass and offers a nose just as opaque.  Dark currant, blackberry, raspberry and licorice dominate the generous aromas, with a healthy dose of allspice, sage, mint and cinnamon.  The palate is delicious, showing dark berries, strawberry, holiday spice and a note of black pepper which lingers on the finish.  The oak treatment, although restrained, may be just a tad too much for me, but California’s heritage grape gets a fine treatment here.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Unusual White Blend From France's Southwest

France's Côtes de Gascogne region is in the southwest part of the country, in the Armagnac region, and is known as Gascony in English.  There is forest to the west, then the Atlantic Ocean; the Pyrenees Mountains, then Spain to south.  Various combinations of clay, limestone, sand and silt make up the soils.

The Gascogne wines are mostly white, with only ten percent red and ten percent rosé.  Winemakers can choose from more than 300 different grape varieties, but most common are the white Colombard, Gros Manseng, Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.  Red grapes include Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Seventy-five percent of the Gascogne wines are made for export.  Look to this region for dry, crisp, refreshing, aromatic whites.

Côtes de Gascogne, Eclat, 2017, Blanc

Domaine de Joÿ is a four-generation winery in the Armagnac region of Gascogne.  Veronique and André Gessler now have sons sons Roland and Olivier involved in the business.  The 2017 Eclat is a dry white blend that clocks in at 12% abv and sells for about ten bucks.

This lovely white wine combines the best of what, to me, are less than appealing grapes.  You get Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc in this Gascogne blend.  It shows a beautiful golden tint and smells of citrus, most notably grapefruit.  There's also some wet rock minerality along for the ride and a soapy savory note.  The palate gives a broader citrus flavor and, again, plenty of minerals.  Acidity is fresh, but not too tingly.  The finish fades fairly fast, but it's great while it lasts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Badass Pinot Noir

MacPhail Wines is a Cloverdale collaboration between fifth-generation Hess Family members Tim and Sabrina Persson and winemaker Matt Courtney, who says he likes his oak to stay in the background.  They all reportedly feel that wine is art with a splash of science.  They make wines of the Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley.

The Flyer is 100% Pinot Noir grown in the Sangiacomo Lakeville Vineyards in the Petaluma Gap.  Lots of fog means additional hang time for the grapes, which means riper fruit.  The grapes are hand-harvested and sorted, destemmed.  For the 2016 vintage they used Pinot Noir clones 777 and 23, both fermented in same tank, with full native fermentation.  The wine is aged 11 months in French oak, 30% of which is new. 

The wagon on the label reportedly represents "timeless design and exceptional quality."  Oh, and Tim and Sabrina signed the back label.  The wine hits 14.5% abv and retails for $50.

Be warned, this wine does not smell like Pinot Noir.  It's big, it's bold, it's frightfully funky.  Only medium ruby in color, the nose is full of forest floor, smoke and tar.  The palate is all dark fruit, bathed in a savory soak, sprayed with violets and punched with acidity and healthy pack of tannins.  Oak adds to the experience, but doesn't overpower.  You won't have to be careful with pairings, as this Pinot will match up with the beefiest beef dishes.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Orvieto: From The Heart Of Italy

Argillae's Orvieto is in Italy's Umbria region, landlocked and surrounded by other Italian regions in the heart of the country.  The area has changed shape since the time of the Romans and has seen many wars through the years, most recently World War II.

Argillae was founded by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo in the hills north of the town and the 94-acre estate is now run by today's generation.  Their U.S. importer says winemaker Lorenzo Landi works with grapes grown in clay, sand and limestone.  Argillae, in fact, is the Italian word for clay.  The clay soil stays cool and helps the grapes grow better through the hot Umbrian summer.  Ancient fossils dot the landscape from two million years ago, adding their own special minerality to the fruit and the wines.

The 2016 Argillae Orvieto is a blend of grapes: Grechetto, Procanico, Malvasia, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  You may recognize Procanico by its local name - Trebbiano.  The different grapes were vinified separately in stainless steel tanks, then blended together and aged a few months in those tanks.  Alcohol is restrained, at 13% abv and I paid $11 by the glass for it at a Beverly Hills Italian restaurant.

This dry white wine strikes a nice balance between the floral and mineral aspects.  Served too cold, as it always seems to be in restaurants, it's hard to dig out any scent at all.  Once it escapes the clutches of the refrigerator, the citrus and minerals work hard enough to rival the flowers. The palate is mineral-driven and fits perfectly with pasta and chicken in a light tomato sauce.

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Mulling It Over

Call me a Grinch, but I don't get into mulled wine.  Warming up a pot of wine simply doesn't sound good to me.  Maybe it reminds me of a particularly nasty Dickens festival I attended years ago.  Maybe I don't like drinking wine that tastes like a potpourri, or one of those oranges with all the cloves stuck in it. 

Maybe it's just a West Coast bias.  In Los Angeles it barely gets cold enough for warm food, much less warm wine.

Every year, the wine web is ablaze with articles on mulled wine.  There are endless sites offering the perfect recipe for disaster, in which an entire bottle of perfectly good wine is poured into a pot.  In with it goes an orange, some brandy, cloves, sticks of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, oregano, basil - oh, sorry, I accidentally clicked back to that pasta sauce recipe on the other tab.

Stand over this kitchen sink of lovely ingredients for about a half hour on low heat, preferably while playing the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon.  Be careful not to boil it!  God have mercy on us if it boils!  Pick out some nice, wintry-looking vessels and ladle it up.  Throw a shilling to the carolers who have no doubt been drawn to your stoop by the aroma and sip away while the holidays just roll over you.

If you're interested, the internet is literally crammed full of mulled wine recipes that promise to "take the chill off the bones"  Meanwhile, make mine Port.

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