Monday, October 21, 2019

Tuscan Vermentino

Lunch in Los Angeles is a beautiful thing, when the weather cooperates.  That's not a lot to ask in a city where the main export - behind entertainment - seems to be sunshine.  Those days right at the beginning of autumn, when the temperatures barely crack 70 degrees, are the best lunch days.  A calamari and scungilli salad at our favorite place at the top of the Hollywood Hills is made for those times.  Oh, and a glass of Vermentino.

Antinori says they began producing Vermentino from the Guado al Tasso vineyard in 1996, just a year after the Bolgheri DOC was approved.  The wine resulted in an effort to reintroduce an indigenous grape variety from that part of the Tyrrhenian coast.

The 2018 Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Vermentino shows great salinity, for a Tuscan Vermentino.  The savory nose and palate are a delight, as are the wonderful citrus notes.  The acidity is a bit light, but there’s enough there to allow for pairing with salads or pasta in oil.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, October 18, 2019

Rioja Red Blend Ages Well

Bodegas LAN takes its name from the first letters of the three provinces in the Rioja wine region: Logroño (now La Rioja), Álava and Navarra.  Founded in 1972, the winery sits in a bend of the Ebro River, where winemaker and technical director María Barúa and her team work with grapes grown on vines which are 40 to 60 years old.

The 2012 Lanciano Rioja Reserva was made using 90% Tempranillo grapes, 8% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo, all taken from a single estate vineyard.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks and reportedly aged for eight months in Russian oak barrels, another 14 months in French oak and yet another year and a half in the bottle.  Alcohol clicks in at 13.5% abv and the wine sells for less than $25.

This seven-year-old Rioja is showing black plums and leather on the nose, with equally dark and savory flavors on the palate. The tannins are no longer youthfully toothy, but still have enough bite to handle a ribeye steak.  The wine will also pair well with fall and winter stews.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Stella Rosa Wine In Cans

The oldest working winery in Los Angeles is getting canned.  The Riboli Family, of L.A.'s San Antonio Winery, now have four styles of their imported Stella Rosa wine available in single-serving aluminum cans.  The winery boasts that Stella Rosa is America's number one imported Italian wine, and their Aluminums line now include a tasty peach flavor.

The Riboli's recommend the Stella Rosa cans for football tailgating.  However, the cans were introduced several years ago at Dodger stadium, so it seems they are a multi-sport phenomenon.
Stella Rosa Aluminums come as 8.5 ounce single serve aluminum bottles in four flavors, Black, Platinum, Pink and now Peach.  They also come in larger format bottles, and all four clock in at a low alcohol level of only 5% abv.  The winery says the cans are not only light weight, easy to pack and smooth to drink but stylish as well.  All bottles are recyclable and stay colder.

They're simple, uncomplicated wines which also make great bases for cocktails.  Stella Rosa has a bushel basket of recipes on their website.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Black is a semi-sweet and semi-sparkling red blend, which the winery says is sexy and seductive.  It has a sweet-n-sour nose which displays a persistent earthiness.  The palate is red currant, slightly sweet and extremely drinkable.  There is almost no tannic structure, so it's very easy to find yourself gulping it.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Platinum is a semi-sweet sparkler which is the only wine I've ever known to promise a more magical life for dreamers and surrealists.  The nose is sweetly floral, as one might expect with a Moscato, but carries an earthy note on the palate which adds a bit of complexity.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Pink is a semi-sweet sparkler which aims to flirt.  The nose is all cherry Jolly Rancher, and the candy motif follows through on the palate. 

Stella Rosa Il Conte Peach is a semi-sweet sparkler which claims to make summer last forever.  The nose is sweet with green apples, peach and pear juice, which dominate the palate.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter



Monday, October 14, 2019

Bargain Italian White Wine

Citra Vini is an association of unified wineries in the Italian wine region of Abruzzo.  The group was established in 1973 and their vineyards cover a lot of ground in Chieti - about 15,000 acres.  The winegrowing association is located between the Majella, a limestone massif in the Apennine mountain range, and the Adriatic Sea.  Some 3,000 growers contribute grapes to the Citra effort. 

Their website explains a bit of the storied history of the Montepulciano grape.  Hannibal 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.

Citra says the Trebbiano grape has been grown in central Italy since the Roman era.  It was originally used to make wines for the grower's family.  The 2017 Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo carries a relatively light alcohol number of 12% abv and it sells for about $10.

This bargain Italian white wine sports a nice nose of citrus and apricot with a savory salinity.  The savory streak takes the lead on the palate for a tasty sip.  There's not a whole lot of acidity here, which hurts food pairing a tad.  Consider this a sipper.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, October 11, 2019

Fogo de Chão Fall Menu

The Texas-based Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão is now serving new menu items for the fall season.  Fogo has introduced a New York strip steak for autumn, as well as one of their wine partner's bottlings which is now available in all Fogo locations.  I was invited to sample the offerings with the manager of the Beverly Hills Fogo de Chão, Sevenir Girardi.

The meats are all carved tableside at Fogo de Chão.  The New York strip is cooked perfectly and drips with flavor, while the top sirloin is tender and delish.  The beef ribs are tender and moist and my favorite, the spicy Linguiça Sausage, is perfect for a sausage lover.  The specialty of the house is Brazilian center cut beef picanha

Fogo's CEO Barry McGowan says "Brazilian cuisine focuses on harvesting and serving fruits and vegetables when they are in season and have reached peak flavor."  That approach shows on the salad bar, or Market Table.  Fogo's butternut squash soup is perfect for fall, full of flavor and creamy rich.  The sweet potato with miso is charred to delight, and the roasted cauliflower is as autumnal as it gets.  Don’t miss the Bosc pear slices with bacon, onion and feta cheese.  Lift the lid on the big pot for the feijoada, a black bean stew with generous hunks of meat in it.

To drink, the 2013 Seven Falls Cellars Merlot, from Washington’s Wahluke Slope is $13 by the glass.  It has a beautiful fruit and floral nose with a lush palate of black cherry, plum and earth.  Fogo's wine partner, VIK, has their La Piu Belle available everywhere now.  It's a blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from Chile's Cachapoal Valley.  At $17 by the glass, you get black fruit, leather and lavender aromas, with savory flavors highlighted by earthy plums and great tannins.

The Fogo de Chão 2017 Gran Reserva is a product of Mendoza, Argentina.  It shows spicy fruit on the nose and a deep, dark palate which is on the savory side.

For a fall cocktail, try the Brazilian gentleman.  This sweet and delicious drink sports passion fruit puree, Knob Creek rye bourbon, Ramos Pinto ten-year tawny Port, lemon and honey.  You can open your meal with it, but I enjoyed mine as dessert.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter




Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Australian Shiraz To Hold With Both Hands

Terlato Wines tells us that Australia exports more wine to the U.S. than France, but that's a claim for which I could not find any corroboration.  In fact, the wines from Down Under appear to be the fourth most imported by the U.S. in dollars, behind Italy, France and New Zealand.  Perhaps they were thinking of exports to the U.K.  In any case, Americans are drinking more Australian wine than vice versa, from a percentage standpoint.

Australia's wine industry dates back to the 18th century, when vine cuttings were first brought to the continent from Europe and South Africa.  The country has no indigenous grapes of its own.  However, they do refer to Syrah as Shiraz, which has proven so popular that some other winemakers around the world have adopted the name.  Shiraz is the most widely planted grape in Australia.

Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz 2018

Terlato made available to me several Shiraz wines produced under their Two Hands label.  The 2018 Gnarly Dudes is 100% Shiraz, made from Barossa Valley grapes.  That wine region is in the state of South Australia, near the city of Adelaide. 

Gnarly Dudes was aged in French oak barrels for a year, and only 13% of them were new.  The remaining wood was contained in puncheons and hogsheads that were anywhere from one to six years old.  The wine's alcohol content is somewhat restrained, at 13.8% abv, and it retails for $33.

This is one big, bold Shiraz.  The wine colors up as inky black as night and smells of black fruit, leather and meat.  On the palate, it's a large time as well, with plums and chocolate flavors laced with licorice.  Oak is pronounced, but it seems about right considering how brawny this wine drinks.  Tannins are somewhat mellow, however, so it goes down easily.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Delicious WA Riesling To Pair With Spicy, Salty Foods

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He buys already produced wine from established makers on the down low, with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club, which he calls a wineocracy, bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman-distributor-retailer chain through which store-bought wines must pass.

Cameron Hughes Lot 622 Columbia Valley Riesling 2016

Hughes says this Riesling was sourced "from the top program of a high-end Columbia Valley winery and crafted by a winemaking staff with a wildly impressive international resumé."  No names are given, as is customary with Cameron Hughes wines.

2016 was reportedly a great vintage with early budbreak and cool summer temperatures.  Alcohol hits only 11.8% abv and the wine sells for $12.

This golden Riesling has a nose that is laced with stone fruit, citrus and a whiff of petrol.  The palate is semi-sweet, with a nice bit of acidity and luscious fruit galore.  I’d pair it with a spicy dish, maybe Thai food or a bánh mí sandwich.

Lincoln A Federalist In Wine Only

There's a bit of a ragged backstory for this wine, The Federalist Honest Red Blend 2016.  The folks at Illinois-based Terlato Wines say Honest Red pays homage to Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln's reputation as Honest Abe may be true or it may be apocryphal.  After all, he was a politician.  There's no dispute, however, that Lincoln was no Federalist.  Terlato initiated the Federalist line with a nod to Alexander Hamilton, and the link began to fray as they expanded to other historical Americans who were not associated with the Federalist party.  For millennials, presumably, Terlato notes that Lincoln's accomplishments include emancipating the slaves and being assassinated.

Honest Red is composed of 45% Zinfandel, 24% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc - all North Coast grapes, from Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa counties.  The wine aged for 15 months in oak barrels, 35% of them new.  Alcohol tips 15% abv and it sells for $22.

This North Coast red blend offers up a dark nose of smoke, tar, plums, cigar box, vanilla, cedar and an old baseball glove.  The palate shows huge black and red fruit, also with plenty of oak spice.  BTW, the wine is said to pay homage to Abraham Lincoln.  He may have been Honest Abe, but he was not a Federalist.  But whatever.  You’re not really drinking it for the backstory, are you?  The winery advises having it slightly chilled, with food right off your grill.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Friday, October 4, 2019

This Muscat Is No Sweetie

Murrieta's Well Estate Vineyard, in California's Livermore Valley, has a history almost as long and rich as the state of California itself.  The vines of the Murrieta's Well estate were first planted in 1884 by Louis Mel with cuttings from Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Margaux, 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, winemaker Robbie 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."  That something, says Snooth, is food-friendly wine, the stuff of which Meyer prides himself.  Through the growing, the harvesting and the fermentation, Meyer says blending is where he sees the real art of winemaking.

The 2018 Murrieta's Well Dry Orange Muscat is not a dessert wine.  Made from Hayes Vineyard grapes, Meyer says the wine exhibits the wide variety of soils and elevations found in that parcel. The 2018 vintage was warm with no heat spikes, which allowed for a lengthy hang time.  The grapes had plenty of sunshine to bring out their floral aspects.  Meyer says the decision to make a dry wine from Orange Muscat grapes was partially influenced by the fact that the grape variety is typically low-yielding, both in quantity and berry size.  By the way, he says the "orange" in the grape's name comes from its coloring at harvest.  The wine was steel-fermented and aged for three months.  Alcohol is quite ripe at 14.6% abv and the retail price tag reads $38.

This wine has beautiful floral notes, and considering the grape, one might think a dessert wine is in the glass, or maybe an Albariño or Gewurztraminer.  That's not happening, though.  This Orange Muscat is completely dry.  The palate shows lime notes in an orange-laced and wonderfully acidic setting.  Bring on the shellfish.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Dry Rose For Fall

Murrieta's Well Estate Vineyard, in California's Livermore Valley, has a history almost as long and rich as the state of California itself.  The vines of the Murrieta's Well estate were first planted in 1884 by Louis Mel with cuttings from Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Margaux, 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, winemaker Robbie 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."  That something, says Snooth, is food-friendly wine, the stuff of which Meyer prides himself with making.  Through the growing, the harvesting and the fermentation, Meyer says blending is where he sees the real art of winemaking.

The grapes for the 2018 Murrieta's Well Dry Rosé was made from Livermore Valley fruit - 42% Counoise, 33% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre - pulled from their estate vineyards, Hayes and Raboli.  Those grapes were grown, picked and fermented specifically for rosé.  The fruit was whole-cluster pressed, vinified in stainless steel tanks and aged in them for two months. 

Meyer said during a recent Snooth virtual tasting event that he loves Grenache for rosé.  He feels that Counoise mates with Grenache perfectly.  He accentuates the fruit-forward aspect of the grapes in this pink wine.  He calls it a "substantial" rosé, one to be paired with food which is heftier than a salad.  He's thinking of butternut squash and other autumn vegetables.  The wine has alcohol at 13.5% abv and it retails for $32.

Fresh strawberries and cherries burst forth from the nose, with more of the same on the palate. The acidity is fresh and vibrant.  This pale salmon rosé comes at the end of "rosé season," but hang onto a bottle or two for Thanksgiving.  It is substantial enough for fall veggies, or turkey.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter