Monday, December 31, 2012

V. Sattui Vintage Port 1998

The wine tastes great, but I have a bit of a bone to pick with V. Sattui Winery over the name of this one.  Port wine comes from Portugal, much as Champagne and Burgundy come from those French regions and nowhere else.  Nobody likes it when a California winery pastes "Champagne" on their label, and similar liberties with "Port" should also be avoided.  With that mini-rant out of the way, the wine - whatever it is named - is fantastic.

This is a Port-style wine, with a neutral grape spirit added at partial fermentation.  The wine is then aged in small French oak barrels for three years before bottling.  Three Portuguese grape varieties are used in this blend: Tinta Cão, Souzão and Touriga Nacional.  The retail price is $46.

The nose is heavily laced with alcohol upon pouring, not unusual for a fortified wine.  The fruitiness comes through as blackberry and currant, but any nuance is obliterated by the spirit.  The alcohol is much easier to take on the palate, and the fruit plays forward here, too.  The flavor immediately reminds me of cassis.  This port tastes very fresh and fruity for a 14-year-old wine. The color is ruby red to the edges.  There's barely a hint of raisins when first opened, but those notes do come forth after decanting.

Sweet and bold, this 1998 Port-style wine matches beautifully with dark chocolate and pairs well with Gorgonzola cheese, too.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Cantele Primitivo

At the Las Vegas Brio Tuscan Grille, I felt like a Zinfandel, but wanted to drink Italian.  That’s an easy situation to deal with when there is a Primitivo on the list.

Primitivo and Zinfandel were thought to be the same grape with different names, until DNA analysis showed that, while very similar, they are different grapes.

The Cantele Primitivo is a 100% varietal wine, I.G.T. Salento, which is in Puglia, the heel of the Italian “boot.”  It costs $7.95 by the glass at the restaurant.

Cantele Primitivo is colored quite darkly, and has an intense nose of blackberry and spice.  An earthy aroma has a little spearmint mixed in.  On the palate, flavors of blackberry dominate, and the tannins are very gentle.  Sipping it alone was a joy, and it paired with my Bolognese sauce perfectly.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Living It Up On A Limited Wine List

There's the old Las Vegas joke about the guy at the bus depot bumming the fare back home.  Guy gives him the money for the ticket, but admonishes him "not to gamble it away."  Bum replies, "Oh, don't worry - I've got gambling money!"  In my world, it's, "Oh, I've got wine money."

We're enjoying a little holiday getaway in Las Vegas, with me alternating between a few hands of blackjack and watching my wife play slots.  If you have ever watched someone play slots, you know that it's the pattern from which boredom is made.

My wife says, "It's Vegas - why don't you live it up a little?"  I'm of Scots-Irish heritage: we love to drink, but we're too cheap to buy it.  I decided to turn loose of a few bucks and take her advice.  Live it up.

So we pop into the wine bar in the hallway between the J.W. Marriott and the Rampart Casino, a little place called Two Two One, for reasons that were never made clear.  Right away, I redefine my expectations.  The wine list has no "special occasion" wines.  On the bright side, "living it up" wasn't going to cost as much as I had thought it would.

The wine list is limited, but it offers some reliable names at prices that are pretty reasonable.  I chose the Hogue Riesling and the Ravenswood Zinfandel.

To underscore the feeling of a "vacation," I did not take notes and I did not take pictures, but take my word for it, both wines were just fine and added an extra dimension of pleasure to the evening.

They aren't exotic or worldly wines and they don't make me work too hard to figure them out, although that's something I enjoy quite a lot.  They offer a tasty escape and the chance to live it up without spending too much of my wine money - or my gambling money.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

Now And Zin hopes you are having a wonderful holiday season, full of family, giving and love.

There should be some wine in there, too.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2011

Napa Valley producer Smith-Madrone makes wine from grapes grown on their estate at the top of the Spring Mountain district.  Stu Smith writes me that he and his winemaker brother Charles planted the vineyards in 1971.  The steep mountainside slopes are primarily dry-farmed at an altitude of between 1,300 and 2,000 feet.

On their website, they answer the question, 'Why Smith-Madrone?' this way:  “"It sounds better than Smith-Douglas Fir, Smith-Manzanita, Smith-Oak and certainly Smith-Poison Oak.  These were the predominant trees and shrubs on the property when we began," Stuart Smith explains.  "We had so much physically and emotionally invested in the development of the vineyard and the winery that we selfishly wanted our name on it.  Smith is not exactly a grand Mediterranean wine name, and certainly we couldn't call it just "Smith Winery."  Somehow Smith-Madrone had a nice ring to it."

Stu was kind enough to send samples of his three latest releases, Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Today, we’ll try the Smith-Madrone Riesling 2011.

It's not a surprise to find Cab and Chardonnay being made in Napa Valley, but Riesling?  Riesling vines were among the first planted by the Smith brothers decades ago - the vines yielding the fruit for this wine are 39 years old, qualifying them as "old vines" in most accounts.  The alcohol content is 12.6% abv and residual sugar is a just-off-dry 0.7%.  521 cases were produced.  It retails for $27.

This Riesling appears pale yellow with green highlights.  The bouquet is blessed with a fair amount of low-level petrol, something I don't expect to find in a Riesling this young.  That’s quite a pleasant surprise.  The complex nose also displays undertones of apricots, peaches and pears, which reform as flavors on the palate.  A nice minerality - a slate flavor - comes forth, too.

The wine smells interesting and tastes wonderful - that petrol aroma and wet-rock taste grab me every time - but I could use a little more acidity.  Although I've already seen several wine writers extolling the acidity of this wine, it doesn't strike me as racy or bracing like, say, a Finger Lakes Riesling.  To my palate, the fruit expression of Napa Valley wine tends to be ripe rather than crisp.  I don't expect this Riesling will stand up to very hearty food pairings, but it should match nicely with salads and shellfish.  It's a great sipper, too.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

V. Sattui Prestige Cuvée 2009

Sometimes people who know I write about wine will engage me in a wine conversation.  This usually involves either asking for a recommendation or asking if I have ever had their favorite wine.  Either way, I'm more than willing to engage.  If you know anyone who writes about wine - and there are plenty of us - you may have ended up sorry you broached the subject.  "I wouldn't have rubbed the lamp if I had known the genie would rattle on all night."

One friend made a recommendation to me.  He told me to try Napa Valley producer V. Sattui, that I would love their wines as much as he did.  As luck has it, I have the opportunity, and I'm impressed.  This space contained a bit about the V. Sattui '08 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon a while back.  Today we'll examine the winery's sparkling Cuvée, also kindly provided by the winery.

The 2009 V. Sattui Prestige Cuvée is 80% Chardonnay from their Carsi Vineyard in Yountville and 20% Pinot Noir from Henry Ranching Los Carneros.  At just under 1% residual sugar, the winery says the '09 is a little drier than their three previous releases.  The sparkler is produced in methode champenoise and is disgorged after 18 months on the yeast. It goes for $29 retail.

The wine is a beautiful golden color, particularly effective when served in a glass larger than a flute.  I dislike flutes for sparkling wine, because it is so much harder to appreciate the bouquet of the wine in a narrow little glass.  It's O.K. to drink sparkling wine from a larger wine glass.

The nose displays lovely notes of toast and honey under an apricot fruit layer.  Frothy bubbles dissipate quickly and a sweet edge sets off lovely green apples and brilliant acidity.

It's a festive wine, as sparklers are generally perceived to be, and dry enough to pair well with whatever finger food is served with it.  It's a great match with my iced shortbread Christmas cookies.  Some shrimp or caviar would be nice with it, too.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Tasting Panel Champagne Event 2012

During the holidays, everyone wants to talk about the bubbles.  And why not?  What’s more festive than a flute full of stars?

The Tasting Panel magazine stages a little Champagne event each holiday season, and this year’s event depicted Editor-In-Chief Anthony Dias Blue as a Photoshopped elf.  I couldn’t stay away.  I attended the Los Angeles event on December 13, 2012 at Waterloo and City, in Culver City.

I’m glad I didn’t stay away.  I don’t drink a lot of sparkling wine throughout the year.  At the event, I happened to mention to a colleague that “I’m not a sparkling person.”  Taking the cue, she replied wryly, “Yes, we’ve noticed that about you.”  Nevertheless, I do like a chance to taste a number of good sparkling wines side-by-side.

Some of the bubbles poured are extremely affordable - some are in what you might call the “special occasion” category.  Here are a few I found interesting, with the prices taken from the sheet that was handed out at the door.

Frank Family Vineyards 2008 Blanc de Blancs ($45) - Most interesting, with some funky aromas and flavors of burnt toast and herbs.

Domaine Carneros 2008 Brut ($27) - This was the least expensive wine poured at the event, and it’s one of the best.  Frothy and funky with fine bubbles and a toasty palate.

JCB 2007 #9 ($48) - Nice bubbles lead to a crème brûlée nose and an edgy palate.

Ferrari Perle 2006, Metodo Classico, Trento DOC, Italy ($35) - This smells dark and brooding, but tastes earthy and fruity. 

Schramsberg 2008 Blanc de Noirs ($39) - Lovely toasty flavor.  Their ‘09 Blancs de Blancs wasn’t bad, either. ($37)

Champagne Paul Goerg 2002 Brut ($40) - A little light on bubbles, if that sort of thing matters to you, but a nose of caramel toast and a candy apple finish makes up for it.

Champagne Henriot Millesime 2005 ($99) - Almost without bubbles when I got to it, but great, earthy toast on the nose and palate.

Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2002 ($58) - Funky toast on the bouquet, with crisp golden apple flavors following.  

Champagne Paul Goerg 2000 Cuvée Lady Brut Vintage ($95) - An earthy, funky nose, fantastic bubbles and a toasty palate.

Champagne Gosset Grand Millesime 2000 ($100) - Aromas of Sweet Tarts and a really nice apricot flavor seem at odds, but it works.

Champagne Perrier-Jouet 2004 Belle Epoque ($130) - The most expensive wine I tasted at the event is elegant, toasty and fruity - it has it all.

All the Champagnes priced at over $100 showed characteristics worthy of note, although many of the wines at the lower end of the price spectrum displayed much more bang for the buck.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Tasting Wine In All 50 States Is Not A Slam Dunk

What started as an idle thought - “can I taste wines from all 50 U.S. states?” - has become a personal mission.  Now And Zin’s Wine Country series debuted nearly two years ago, and we’re just over halfway there.

Now And Zin’s Wine Country started with a series about wines made from America’s Norton grape, in which I sampled wine from Missouri, Virginia and Georgia for the first time.  I was surprised by the quality and fascinated by the notion of wine tasting across America.

If you can make good wine in California, that's expected - it’s what you’re supposed to do with great soil and perfect weather.  Making good wine in areas of the country where nature isn’t quite as accommodating is a real achievement.

I’ve heard from American winemakers about Indiana limestone, Cornell grape creations and moderating winds from - of all places - Lake Erie.  I’ve heard winemakers cry in anguish, “I want to make dry wines, but all my customers want is sweet!”

I’ve sampled mead from Montana and Maine, Muscadine from Alabama and Kentucky Cabernet Franc.  I’ve had a Super Tuscan-style blend from Arizona, mile-high wine from Colorado, amazing bubbles from Massachusetts and Michigan, Zinfandel from Nevada and New Mexico, New York Riesling, New Jersey Merlot and North Carolina Chardonnay.

I’ve tried wine made from Vermont apples, Florida blueberries, North Dakota rhubarb and West Virginia blackberries.

There have been plenty of unexpected grapes, like Petit Manseng from Georgia, Carménère from Idaho, Traminette from Indiana, Eidelweiss from Iowa, Marquette from Minnesota and Catawba from Pennsylvania.

Two Nebraska wines are named after pelicans; a South Dakota winemaker uses Petite Sirah to take the acidic edge off the Frontenac.  There’s Touriga Nacional growing in Tennessee.

Most of the wines for this series have been supplied by the winemakers for the purpose of the article, while some have been sent by friends of mine who had travel plans to a state I hadn’t yet tasted.  To all who have sent wine for this project, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

At this writing, 27 states have been included, so I may be at this for some time.  I hear that some Washington state Rhones are on the way, and a Delaware winery is looking into their shipping permit.  Aah, shipping wine in the United States.  That has proven to be a stumbling block more than once so far.

Contacts made in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Ohio, Utah and Oklahoma dropped out of sight, while responses are hard to come by at all from Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin.  I am sure for some of these states, I’ll probably have to find someone who makes wine in their garage.  Any Mississippi garagistas out there?

While we are on the subject, if you know a winemaker in any of the states which haven’t been covered in Wine Country yet, please pass this article along to them.  Even if they can’t ship to me, I’d love to hear from them.

Also, one state which has been left blank is California.  Of course, I sample a lot of California wine, so finding it isn’t the problem.  I want to determine one wine or winery which is representative of California for this series.  If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.  Comment here, email or contact me on Twitter.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cornerstone Cellars Oregon Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2010

Cornerstone Cellars is expanding their line of wines, offering more than just the top-shelf Cab that made their reputation.  Part of that expansion is the Cornerstone/Oregon label, the wines for which are grown, produced and bottled in Oregon's Willamette Valley.  It’s a collaboration between Cornerstone’s managing partner Craig Camp and noted Oregon winemaker Tony Rynders.

Camp calls his Oregon Chardonnay a “lean, mean, fighting machine type of Chardonnay.  No sweet, oaky fruit bombs for me.  If you love classic Chablis, you’ll love our Oregon Chardonnay.”  He cites the wine’s backbone as its strength.  “A concentrated minerality and racy acidity that will hurt the teeth of those who love oaky, sweet Chardonnay.  I would never dream of making a spineless Chardonnay.  Cornerstone has never been about spineless wines, and I have no place for them at my table.”  Stand back.  He sounds like he means business.

2010 offered a cool growing season in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, cooler than usual.  The usual warm and dry summer never really materialized, so the fruit was harvested at a lower sugar level, which results in a higher level of acidity.

The grapes are a 50/50 mix of fruit from the Yamhill-Carlton and Chehalem Mountains AVAs.  The wine was aged on its lees - in contact with the expired yeast - for 16 months in French oak, only 24% of it new.  Aging sur lie is the Burgundian style, often giving wine a heavier, creamier mouthfeel.  It's definitely a small-production wine, as only 166 cases were made.

The rich, golden color of this Chardonnay signifies oak right away, and the nose bears out that suspicion.  To my senses, there's plenty of oak here for anybody, but Camp's claim of "lean and mean" is not a red herring.  This not a fat butterball of a Chardonnay.  That backbone shows itself easily in an acidity that is bracing, despite what would appear to be efforts to negate it - 16 months in wood, on the lees.

The wine's bouquet shows apricot and pineapple and citrus, with spices to complement them.  The oak is apparent on the palate in the form a spicy angle.  I keep waiting for that butter to coat my taste buds, but it doesn't.  Besides the fruit - which isn't bashful - the minerality is up front, in the middle and on the finish as well.

From the description given by Camp, I expected a nervy, steely white wine.  That's not what we have here.  The wood effect, however, coexists with the minerality of the wine in a way I find very attractive.  It is oaky, but it's quick on its feet and screams out loud for seafood - crabs or lobster, anyone?  It's a fair match with my Christmas cashews, too.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Oregon Pinot Noir By Cornerstone Cellars

Cornerstone Cellars in Napa Valley is undergoing a shift from the top-dollar Cabernet Sauvignon they have been known for in the past.  Under the guidance of managing partner Craig Camp, they are broadening the spectrum of the main label, while also producing the Stepping Stone line aimed directly at the millennial consumer.

Cornerstone’s branch office in Oregon is the result of Camp’s desire to produce quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for the labels.  In grape growing, as in real estate, it’s location, location, location.  The different growing conditions required for Cabernet and Pinot Noir prompt Camp to say “if you have a Cabernet vineyard next to a Pinot vineyard, one or both of them are in the wrong place.”  Knowing Napa was the right place for Cab, he sought out the right place for Pinot.

Camp collaborated with Oregon winemaker Tony Rynders.  Rynders' talents brought him notice at Washington’s Hogue Cellars, then at Oregon’s Domaine Serene.  All the Cornerstone/Oregon wines are grown, produced and bottled in Oregon.  

Both the wines tasted for this article are from the 2010 vintage. Camp says, “While this may have been a difficult vintage to work with, I could not be more enthusiastic about the wines. Wines like this is why I am making wine in Oregon.”

The 2010 vintage was cooler than the typical Oregon growing season.  It was the sort of year that might cause a lot of sleepless nights in Napa Valley, but in Oregon a late-blooming summer is just what they wanted.  That’s the sort of weather that allows fruit to be harvested at lower sugar levels for a higher acidity.

Cornerstone/Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2010 

This Pinot comes from the grapes of six AVAs in the Willamette Valley.  It aged for 15 months in French oak, 62% of which was new.  498 cases were produced.  It has an alcohol content of 13.5% abv and retails for $50 per bottle.

Medium ruby in the glass, this beautiful Pinot offers aromas of ripe wild cherry with an undercurrent of nutmeg.  It really is a nice olfactory package for the holiday season.  Raspberry and cherry flavors pop on the palate, while a hint of orange tea provides a great complement.  Acidity is nearly perfect, and the wine is very fresh tasting as a result.  It is restrained without seeming wimpy, vibrant without overpowering.  Put it next to a turkey or a holiday ham and it's right at home.

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone/Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2010 

The wine is also made from the grapes of six AVAs in the Willamette Valley and has a moderate 13.5% abv number.  Aging occurs over 13 months in French oak, only 35% of which was new.  137 cases were produced, and the retail price is $30.

It's a fairly dark looking Pinot, with an abundant nose.  Raspberry and cranberry aromas are right up front, with cherry cola and pepper close behind.  The palate is fruit forward as well, with a peppery flavor lacing the main thrust of black cherry and raspberry.  An earthy edge comes through and provides a nice counterpoint to all those flavors.  This is not a dainty or delicate Pinot Noir - it's deep and rich, and there's a boatload of acidity here, so have it on the table with smoked ham or sausages.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Castellari Bergaglio Fornaci Gavi 2008

It seems a shame sometimes to just write about wine, when the food so often steals the show.  That was the case at the great Los Angeles Italian restaurant, Locanda Veneta.  My wife will tell you that I wear out the phrase "this may be the best ever," but it was impossible to stifle it at this lunch.

I opened with grilled calamari, spicy enough for me to wave off the offer of fresh ground pepper.  The grill flavor permeated the squid and the portion would have been sufficient for lunch, had I not also ordered the porchetta - stuffed with fennel sausage and served in a confit of onion.  Was it the best ever?  I'm saying "yes."

The wine was great, too.  It may not be a list-topper, but it's right up my alley.  The Gavi region in located within Piemonte, and wine production there dates back a millennium.  The white grape Cortese - the grape from which this wine is made - has no recorded history there until the mid-1600s.  It is usually fermented in steel and consumed quite young, but this one - four years old - showed some fairly complex aromas and flavors.  those who know Gavi better than I do say you should cellar it for a while before enjoying it.

Produced by Castellari Bergaglio, the Fornaci Gavi shows no trace of oak, in fact it's as steely as a white can get.  The golden hue belies the mineral-driven nose, although after a bit of warming, herbal notes start to appear that we're not apparent upon pouring.

On the palate is a savory note coming through the curtain of minerality.  Notes of tart apples and a hint of pineapple also find their way to my taste buds, but the minerals define this wine.

Was it the best ever?  Maybe not.  But like a good Italian wine should, it served as the perfect complement for this meal.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blood Of The Vines: Rear Window

Wine Goes To The Movies with

My wife and I have endured neighbors with bagpipes, drums on the solstice, children that never stopped crying and sound systems that caused the windows to rattle like a magnitude five earthquake.  Every time we watch "Rear Window" we drop to our knees and thank the Power of the Universe that we have never had to say, "the neighbors bought a calliope."  Pop some Champagne for that blessing.

I’m not knocking Alfred Hitchcock’s choices.  The only thing I ever directed was a local television commercial that ended up looking like the cutting room scraps of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” - if, indeed, there were any scraps of that film left over.

I have dabbled in music programming during my patchwork career, though, and it has always struck me that Hitch probably never listened to the radio.  The music that serves as a constant companion to the action in “Rear Window” leaves me wondering why those people still lived in that neighborhood.  Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly sharing a snifter of brandy is certainly Hitchcockian, but the cacophony they endure during an open-window New York summer would have most people drinking right from the bottle.  If you run out, start downing mouthwash.

My current neighbor is a composer, and we are often treated to his lovely meanderings on the piano.  He never pulls a Ross Bagdasarian, though, by slamming his hands down on the keys and crying in artistic anguish.

We are keeping a close eye on his flower garden, though.

Although friends don’t make their friends listen to calliope music, they just may have an all-calliope all-the-time music channel in the tasting room at Calliope Wines.  They point out that “calliope” is Greek for “beautiful voice,” but that depends on what hour of the morning it is when the calliope music starts.  Calliope is also the Greek Muse of Eloquence and Poetry.  Think about that the next time you’re on a merry-go-round.

Can You Make Out Any Other Wines?

Put down the binoculars and pick up a bottle from Spyglass Ridge Winery.  They specialize in Pennsylvania Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin.

Michigan’s Good Neighbor Organic makes wine, cider and hard liquor in Leelanau County.  A good neighbor, indeed.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wine Country: New Mexico - St. Clair Reserve Zinfandel 2010

The New Mexico Winegrowers Association claims that New Mexico is America's oldest winemaking region.  "The first grapevines planted in what is now the state of New Mexico were brought in 1629 to Senecu, a Piro Indian pueblo south of Socorro, by Fray Gracia de Zuniga, a Franciscan, and Antonio de Arteaga, a Capuchin monk.  The cuttings brought by the missionaries were a variety of Vitis vinifera, commonly called the 'mission grape.'  This variety is still grown in New Mexico today.  Historians generally agree that the first California vines were planted in 1769 at the Mission of San Diego de Alcala."

During the late 1800s, New Mexico made enough wine to rank fifth among American states in wine production, almost a million gallons per year.  Natural flooding of the Rio Grande River so damaged many of the vineyards in the southern part of the state that before the turn of the century, New Mexico's output had cut to a trickle, and stopped altogether even before Prohibition.  The rebirth of New Mexico wine began in 1978, and the state now reports 42 wineries and tasting rooms, with annual production at around 700,000 gallons annually.

St. Clair Winery is located in Deming, New Mexico, in the Mimbres Valley wine region.  French brothers Florent and Emmanuel Lescombes have six generations of winemaking experience behind them and 120 acres of vineyards in Pyramid Valley, outside of Lordsburg.  In addition to the tasting room in Deming, they run bistros in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Farmington.

The Lescombes were kind enough to supply a sample of their Cellarmaster's Reserve Zinfandel 2010 for this edition of Wine Country.  It sells for $16 per bottle and has a 13% abv count.

St. Clair's Zinfandel sits medium dark in the glass and offers a nose of dusty, brambly blackberry and black cherry.  Spices and a hint of licorice also get into the action.  The first sip surprises me.  It's so bold and jammy I'm literally taken aback.  Plums and blackberries are the focus of the flavors, and the mouthfeel is almost silky.  The masculine, rustic nature of this Zinfandel overshadows the elegant side, but both ends of that spectrum definitely have their say.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Argentina

Pascual Toso was a 19th century transplant to Argentina from Piemonte in Italy, where his family had a wine business.  He originally intended to import wine, but decided that the grapes in Mendoza were good enough for winemaking.  Toso established the winery in 1890, making his the first in the region.

With the Andes mountains to the west, Mendoza is shielded from rain and has a correspondingly dry climate with warm temperatures.  Today, Pascual Toso's vineyards are in the Maipú subregion.  Sebastopol winemaker Paul Hobbs signed on in 2001 to consult Toso winemaker Rolando Luppino.

The wine carries a 14% abv number for alcohol content.  It is imported by TGIC Importers of Woodland Hills, California, who supplied the sample I tasted.  The retail price is around $15 per bottle.

The Pascual Toso 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon has a dark ruby hue in the glass, showing a nice purple rim.  Blackberry aromas come first on the nose, with hints of oak afterward.  Vanilla and a wisp of cedar run underneath the dark fruit.  It's good to find the oak is not an overpowering presence, and that there's no alcohol heat when sniffing it - even with minimal decanting.

Plummy flavors adorn the palate, and the tannic structure is firm.  There is a nice level of acidity, or freshness, in the mouth and the wine does not feel too heavy.  The finish lingers nicely with a sense of cassis.  I find an earthiness in the taste, which I like a lot.  I don't think this Cab will bowl anyone over, but it will serve nicely as an everyday accompaniment to beef, pork or cheese.

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