Showing posts with label Malbec. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Malbec. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Mendoza Malbec

Back in the 19th century, cuttings of Malbec grape vines were brought to Argentina. They thrived there. Malbec is now the king of grapes in the South American country. If a Mendoza winery can afford to age only one grape in oak, it will be Malbec.

The 2021 Diseño Malbec is a young, simple wine but a tasty one which is lacking a bit in the area of tannic grip. Alcohol hits only 13% abv and it sells for less than $10.

This wine is medium dark purple with a very youthful appearance around the rim. The nose displays plenty of ripe dark fruit, mainly blueberries, augmented by oak spice. Vanilla, clove, coffee, lavender and a hint of perfume. The palate has dark fruit as well, but an earthy savoriness accompanies it. Tannins are easy-going and the acidity is refreshing. This is a good match for a burger or hot dog or pizza, foods with which I typically don't want a red wine. This one is mellow enough to go along with them. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Bordeaux Grapes From Israel's Coolest Climate

Galilee is a highly respected wine region in Israel. Golan Heights Winery says it's the best area, and they also push their sub-region as tops. Well, it is the northernmost in the nation, and it is the coolest region. That is where the grapes for the 2022 Mount Hermon Red wine were grown. 

Golan Heights Winery's rocky volcanic soil, cool climate and high altitude estate yielded the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec grapes that went into the 2022 Hermon Mount Hermon Red Galilee. It is kosher for Passover, has alcohol at 14% abv and sells online for less than $20.

This wine is medium dark in the glass. It has a nose which puts ripe fruit up front, with cherry, raspberry and red currant dominating. Some spice rack is present, but oaky notes are not overwhelming here. Earthiness comes on in a co-starring role, however. Red fruit is the leader on the palate, too. There is a bit more oak influence in the flavor profile, but not to a great degree. Earth and mineral notes support the fresh, fruity aspect of the wine. Tannins are medium firm and the wine is very tasty and drinkable.

Follow Randy Fuller on X, which used to be Twitter

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Tracing The Herzog Lineage Back Nine Generations

The Lineage line of wines, the latest from Herzog Wine Cellars, helps trace back the Herzog family winemaking tradition over nine generations. From Eastern Europe, to America's East Coast, to the western US, Herzog has been producing fine kosher wines all along.

The  2020 Clarksburg Malbec - one of six new wines in the Lineage line - is a full varietal wine which hits 14% alcohol by volume and retails for $20.

This kosher wine is quite dark in the glass, showing a ruby red coloring with rose notes while pouring. On the nose, a blast of black raspberry and blackberry is laced with pepper, clove, anise and tobacco. The palate is just as dark and carries a savory streak along with the black fruit. It is the fruit that steals the show. Acidity is racy and fresh while the tannins have a good bit of grip. Have it with game or lamb for a real pairing treat. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Terroir Reflected In Pure Paso Red Blend

As the name suggests, the 2020 Pure Paso Proprietary Red Blend from J. Lohr is made from all Paso Robles grapes. Anji Perry, J. Lohr's expert viticulturist and vineyard research director, cites the blend as 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Petite Sirah, 5% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec and 1% Merlot.

Perry explains the mixture: "Savory varietal notes of Cabernet Sauvignon are layered with the dark fruit character of Petite Sirah. The bouquet of cocoa powder, caramel, and anise works in harmony with the black cherry fruit signature of this wine. Bright and focused on the palate, with a firm and appetizing finish."

The Cab came primarily from the Shotwell Vineyard in the slightly cooler El Pomar District. The Petite Sirah is from the warmer Estrella and San Miguel Districts. Aging took 18 months in American and French oak barrels. Alcohol is up there at 14.8% abv and the wine retails for $27.

This wine is very dark. It has a nose which connotes darkness as well. Aromas of black cherry lead the way with coffee notes - mocha and espresso - tagging along. The chalkiness which I find to be a hallmark of Paso Cabernet is there, although more subdued than it typically is. On the palate, that chalky atmosphere stops hiding. It is draped over black fruit with a meaty sensibility and a smoky backbeat. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, August 15, 2022

Bending Branch Anniversary Blend

Bending Branch Winery is as close as it gets to being a beloved Texas institution - and Texans don't toss about their institutions lightly. The winery is so loaded down with awards and accolades that work should be underway for a new trophy room. Perennial favorites in newspaper and online reader polls, Bending Branch makes their wine in the aptly-named town of Comfort, along Interstate 10, between the rustic, laid back, hick chic of Kerrville and the Latino-flavored urban sprawl of San Antonio.  The town sprung up in the mid-1800s, a product of the influx of German immigrants into the central part of Texas.  

The outfit is headed up by winemaker Robert W. Young, MD, MPH. That last set of letters means he has a masters in public health. The good doctor, on a recent Zoom get-together, said that he is making an ice wine, probably the first and only ice wine produced in the state of Texas. He explained that a grower called him - quite some time after harvest - and told him that he had some Cabernet grapes still on the vines but it was freezing cold up in the High Plains. Dr. Young had the grower put the fruit on dry ice and send it to him. He pressed and vinified it just as they do up in Canada. 

The 2019 Anniversary Blend is a Texas High Plains wine which celebrates the 10th vintage for  Bending Branch. The grapes are one-quarter each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. Aging took place over 19 months in a 50/50 mix of French oak and neutral barrels.  Alcohol clicks only 13.9% abv and the wine retails for $75.

This inky wine has aromas of black fruit - berries and plums - laced with notes of oak. The clove, cedar, leather and earth that come through on the nose are almost overwhelming, but not quite. The palate shows off that dark fruit with a rich backing of mocha, coffee and black pepper. The tannins are quite firm and ready to tackle anything that's coming off the grill. The finish lasts a long time and leaves a fruity memory behind. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, May 17, 2021

A Taste Of Paso Robles

Sixmilebridge Winery is located in West Paso Robles, along Peachy Canyon Road.  Their small-lot Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties come from organically farmed grapes sourced solely from their two organic, high-elevation estate vineyards, Maidie and Grace, in Paso's Adelaida District AVA.

I was invited to take part in a virtual experience to mark the one-year anniversary of their tasting room.  Proprietors Jim and Barbara Moroney, winemaker Anthony Yount and his wife, vineyard manager Hillary Yount were on hand for the Zoom event.  Publicist Stacey Jacob said the tasting room "opened very quietly" during the pandemic.  No small feat, in a time when established businesses were having trouble just staying open.

Anthony says the two vintages of their Estate Cuvée sampled in the event are "similar in blend, but not in flavor."  He feels the cuvée is the purest expression of what the vineyard has to offer in each vintage.  He credits the elevation and the limestone soil for both making contributions to what can be a rustic feel in the wine.  It is that rusticity which draws me over and over again to Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.  

Jim commented that a lot of the limestone on the property is tinted a pink, or peachy, color due to the influence of iron deposits.  Jim also revealed that the winery will be going away from calling their blends cuvées, in favor of more "fanciful" names.  He also spoke with pride of the experimentation that his wine team enjoys, for instance that they have planted Semillon and Zinfandel grapes in addition to the other Bordeaux varietals.  

Jim also gave a tip of the hat to all the journalists who were on the Zoom call, revealing that he had been the publisher of the Dallas Morning News for 17 years and was in television news before that.  By the way, he identified the object on the cuvée labels as the hat of a priest from Sixmilebridge, Ireland in the 19th century.

Sixmilebridge Estate Cuvée 2017

The 2017 Sixmilebridge Estate Cuvée was made from 53% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 17% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc.  Anthony said that he was shocked by how good the Malbec is in the estate.  Hillary agreed, saying the Malbec is consistently the best fruit they have.  An extremely high heat spike over Labor Day weekend in 2017 apparently softened the tannins somewhat.  The wine aged for 26 months in 82% new French oak barriques.  Alcohol tips 14.2% abv and the retail price is $85.

The '17 vintage has a deep purple color and a deep, rich nose that shows sweet plum, blackberry and cassis notes.  The minerals show up strong as well, providing a savory backdrop for the magnificent fruit.  On the palate, the dark fruit flavors are in control as the minerals chase them.  The oak treatment comes across perfectly, with a wonderful sweetness imparted along with some touches of leather and tobacco.  Acidity is bright and the tannins, while they may have softened, are still quite aggressive upon opening.  Let it sit for an hour or so and they tend to settle down.  

Sixmilebridge Estate Cuvée 2018

The 2018 vintage was made from 48% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 33% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc.  As in the previous vintage, the wine aged for 26 months in French oak, but only two-thirds of the wood was new.  Alcohol is a bit higher, at 14.6% abv, and the retail price is $85.

The 2018 Cuvée is dark in color, possibly a tad lighter than '17, and the nose offers a more savory expression of the black fruit.  The leather and tobacco notes stride a little stronger in the '18.  Minerality is a big feature in the aroma package.  The palate is dark and rich, with that classic Paso limestone chalkiness making an appearance.  The acidity is refreshing, and the tannins are a bit softer than the '17, while still offering plenty of pairing potential.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Laura Catena Comes To Los Angeles

I am not often invited to the Consulate General of Argentina Residence in Los Angeles, so when I am, I try to amble over that way.  With pressed shirt, the "nice" shoes - the ones I don't wear for walking all the time - and hair arranged semi-neatly, I made the nine-minute drive east, to a street a little past Larchmont.

The occasion was a wine-tasting event and theatrical performance hosted by Argentine winemaker Laura Catena.  She brought her roadshow to L.A., "As Wine Flows By," a short original play which tells the tale of the Malbec grape through the perspectives of four women who embody different landmarks in the variety's history.  Catena commented that for years the wine world has been overloaded with Y-chromosomes.  "Men made the wine. Men wrote about the wine. Men collected the wine. It wasn't until the 1980s that women's contributions began to be noticed and acknowledged."  London actress Tina Baston worked wonders as the storyteller.

Laura Catena
At the event, I rubbed elbows with other wine writer types and wine sales types.  Several of the wine writer types recognized me, and I made a few new friends.  One of the wine sales types commented to me that that there were worse ways to spend an overcast afternoon than by drinking wine in some rich person’s back yard.  I had to concur.

Laura Catena is a winemaker, medical doctor and all-around gracious woman who has labelled one of her wines with a visual representation of the Malbec story.  She also has a new book to push, Gold in the Vineyards, the story of her family's involvement in wine and a look at a dozen of the world’s most famous vineyards.

Tina Baston
Catena uses four female figures on the label.  Eleanor of Aquitaine - one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages - represents the birth of Malbec.  Madame Phylloxera personifies the near-death of the French wine industry in the late 1800s.  The Immigrant represents the pioneering women leaving Europe for a new continent.  Catena's sister Adrianna is the fourth, symbolizing the modern-day renaissance of Malbec in the new world.

Wines poured:

The 2018 Catena Appellation Tupungato Chardonnay is an elegant white made from grapes grown on high mountain vines.  The barrel fermentation and nine months aging in French oak shows, with sweet oak spice and tropical citrus on the nose.  The palate is only slightly oaky and has a very pleasant earthy note.

For the 2017 Catena Alta Chardonnay, the grapes came largely from the mineral-laden Adrianna Vineyard.  There is a bit more oak here - 14 months - but the fruit shines through and the wine is all the sweeter for it.

The 2017 Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay bears the floral expression for which the vineyard is known.  The wine is earthier and leaner than the previous pair and reminiscent of Chablis.

The 2015 Nicolas Catena Zapata is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  It shows dark fruit and oak spice on the nose and is dark and brooding on the palate, a perfect match for steak.

The 2017 Malbec Argentino is a blend of two vineyards, Nicasia and Angélica.  The expansive nose is  fruity with white pepper and perfume along for the ride.  Easy tannins lead to a beautiful finish.

The 2015 Nicasia Vineyard Malbec is perfumed as well, and shows cherries on the nose and palate.  Firm tannins beg for a meat pairing.

You may know how hungry a person can get while tasting a half-dozen or so wines.  Fortunately, we were served food from the capable hands of Chef Ricardo Coghlan, executive chef at the Consulate of Argentina in Los Angeles.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Three Big, Red Grapes From Israel

Yatir is billed as one of Israel's premier boutique wineries, releasing some 12,000 cases of wine each year.  The winery works with select vineyards which showcase the terroirs of Israel's Yatir Forest in the southern tip of the Judean Hills.  The Yatir kosher wines have won high praise from critics internationally.  Yatir's general manager, Yaakov Ben Dor, says wine presses existed in the region more than 3,000 years ago, so the heritage is there.  The winery itself has been around for fewer than 20 years, and Israel's present wine industry is very young.

The 2016 Yatir Creek is a red blend made from 76% Syrah, 12% Tannat and 12% Malbec grapes.  The fruit was harvested at elevations of 2100 to 2900 feet above sea level, where the soil consists of chalky clay.  The wine was aged in large oak barrels for 12 months and matured in the bottle for two years, and winemaker Eran Goldwasser says it will age and cellar well for five to 10 years.  The wine's alcohol content hits 14.5% abv, and it retails for around $50. 

This inky wine's nose is a strong blast of dark fruit, and I do mean dark.  There is spice and oak, along with a strong element of forest floor, perhaps that of the Yatir Forest.  The palate is fruit forward, dark fruit forward.  The Syrah takes the lead, but the Tannat certainly makes itself known.  Even the Malbec's spicy character can't hide behind the Syrah.  There is a grapey note in the background which reminds me of Lambrusco a bit.  The tannins are firm, but not as forceful as I expected. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, October 7, 2019

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, July 19, 2019

Nice Cab From Nice - California

The little town of Nice, California sits on the northern shore of Clear Lake in Lake County, northwest of Sacramento.  Wikipedia cites a source saying that the town was originally named Clear Lake Villas, until Charles William Bayne renamed the spot after his former hometown in France, around 1930.

Dennis Kreps owns the Samuel Charles label there along with his father, Stephen.  The brand's name comes from the names of Dennis' sons.  Noted winemaker Bob Pepi creates the wines.  The brand is reportedly launching nationwide distribution for the first time this year, with a separate single-vineyard Cab and a Sauvignon Blanc, both sourced in Lake County.

The 2017 Samuel Charles Cabernet Sauvignon is all North Coast grapes - 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Sirah, 4% Malbec - grown in volcanic soil about 2,100 feet up in the mountains.  The wine was aged for nine months in French and American oak barrels, about a third of them new, and alcohol sits at 14.2% abv.  The Cab retails for about $30.

This North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon blend has a dark and savory nose with a bit of a chemical smell poking through the black fruit and spice.  The palate is better, still dark and savory, with a rustic edge which reminds me more of Paso than Napa - but is actually somewhere metaphorically in between.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Argentine Bubbles Delight, Confound

Recent experiences I have had with bubbles from Mendoza, Argentina have varied widely in quality.  The non-vintage Alma Negra Brut Nature is one of the better ones, if a bit on the unusual side.

The label's U.S. importer, Vineyard Brands, says that Ernesto Catena, the eldest son of Nicolás Catena of Catena Zapata fame, is a fourth generation winemaker.  He is reportedly looked upon as being from the "bohemian" side of the Catena family.  He founded his namesake winery and vineyards in 2002.

Catena produced this sparkling wine, although the translation of Alma Negra, black soul, is a reference to their dark-colored red wines made from Bonarda grapes.

Brut Nature is made from Malbec and Pinot Noir grapes.  I can't remember ever having a sparkling Malbec before.  Now that I think of it, I don't know if I've ever run across a Pinot Noir from Mendoza.  The wine was made in the traditional method for sparklers, spent eight months resting on the lees, has alcohol at 13.0% abv and it retails for about $18.

This NV Argentine sparkler gives an orange tint in the glass.  Fizzy with soapy bubbles, the wine carries almost no toasty notes on the nose and very few on the palate.  Instead, it has an earthy quality, with a lanolin texture on the nose and red fruit on the palate.  The mouthfeel is full and creamy, with an acidity that shows strongest on the swallow.  It's an unusual sparkler which has the complexity of a still wine, but none of the highlights traditionally found in bubblies.  An almost caramel quality makes a fleeting appearance on the finish.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, May 17, 2019

Napa Blend Uses Malbec To Tame Cab

The people at Hess say the lion on their 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.

Hess Collection Lion Tamer Napa Valley Red Wine 2016

Guffy uses their Malbec to "tame" the powerful tannins of their Cabernet Suavignon.  Lion Tamer contains 40% Malbec grapes, 27% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Mourvèdre and a splash each of Petit Verdot and Merlot.  The wine was aged 22 months in French oak, 40% of the barrels new.  Alcohol peaks at 14.8% abv and it retails for $45.

Guffy explains that the weather for the 2016 vintage was nearly perfect, not too unusual for California grapes.  While consumers go on and on about the taste of a wine, grape people go on and on about how those grapes got here.  "Winter gave us our average amount of rainfall followed by a warm spring that allowed most varieties to set a nice crop," says Guffy.  "August cooled things off and allowed some increase in hang time, and we didn't see any major heat spikes during September and October.  Yields were above average for most."  He hailed the crops for giving fruit of excellent quality.

This dark ruby wine's nose shows bright red cherry and plum, black pepper and a hint of vanilla.  The palate features big fruit, mocha and a nice savory tobacco edge.  Great tannins and acidity make it a wonderful wine to pair with beef.  The oak treatment is beneficial, not overdone.  The wine finishes strong with fruity earth notes.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Tribute To Malbec's Women

Women across the world are taking what is rightfully theirs.  That includes a record number of women now in the U.S. government.  Once male-dominated industries and businesses are now getting what has been dismissed for centuries as "a woman's touch."  It's happening in the world of wine as well.

Recently, my friend Dan Fredman sent me an email about Laura Catena and her family's Argentine wine estate.  The vineyards were started in Mendoza by her father, long before she ever thought of joining the business and long before she ever dreamed of being an emergency room doctor.  She now oversees the winery and the family's Mendoza estate vineyards in addition to caring for sick and injured people in San Francisco.

Fredman wrote that Catena felt that for centuries, "Men made the wine. Men wrote about the wine. Men collected the wine. It wasn't until the 1980s that women’s contributions began to be noticed and acknowledged."  She was ready to take her turn in the batter's box.

Catena put a label on the bottle for the Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino that tells the story of how her country's most important grape came to the Americas.  More importantly, she says, it tells that story "from a woman's point of view."

Catena and her sister use four female figures on the label.  Eleanor of Aquitaine - one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages - represents the birth of Malbec.  Madame Phylloxera personifies the near-death of the French wine industry in the late 1800s.  The Immigrant represents the pioneering women leaving Europe for a new continent.  Catena's sister Adrianna is the fourth, symbolizing the modern-day renaissance of Malbec in the new world.

Adrianna says she and Laura simply got tired of the "monotonously male vision" of Malbec presented through the years.  She says the label honors the women involved in Malbec's journey and the roles of women in the wine world.

Winemaker Alejandro Vigil recently pulled down 100-point ratings for two of his creations.  For the 2015 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino, he took only Malbec grapes from low-yielding plots in the sand, gravel, stony and clay-loam soils and micro-fermented them in brand new French oak barriques and steel tanks.  The wine was aged for 24 months in oak, then another year or more in the bottle.  It's a $140 bottle of wine.

This Argentine Malbec is a full-throated testament to winemaking.  It's inky black, it smells of fire, tar, vanilla, licorice, black pepper and black fruit.  The nose is simply astounding.  On the palate are flavors of blackberry, toasty oak, cigar and sweet spice.  A pairing with lamb would be great, or heavy beef cuts.  Or, just sip and enjoy.  It's good that way, too.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Wine Mistake

It's terrible when wine goes wrong.  A reliable Argentine producer, under the wing of a rock-solid California company... it should have been a taste treat.

The 2015 Colomé Malbec was made from grapes of four estate vineyards in the upper Calchaqui Valley in Salta, Argentina.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv.  The bottling is part of the Hess Family of wines and was highly regarded by Wine Spectator, which ranked it as one of their top 100 wines of 2017.

However, every now and then in the wine biz, a bad bottle gets through.  That's the case here. 
Inky black, this Malbec has an unfortunate nose that reminds me of fingernail polish remover.  It's probably volatile acidity, a naturally occurring flaw in the winemaking process.  It's not a killer - in fact, some people find that VA is intriguing, interesting. 

I've had wines afflicted with VA before, to a lesser degree, and found them offbeat.  This one is too far gone for me to appreciate.  The chemical odor is overwhelming and the displeasure seeps into the palate.  It's always a disappointment to encounter a wine for which I just can't muster up any excitement.  Several of my Delectable contacts have assured me that it's an anomaly, and I am certain of that.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Argentine Malbec Wine

The Amalaya winery, in Salta, Argentina, is owned by the Hess Family.  The California producer also has branched out from Napa Valley into South Africa.  Amalaya - which means "hope for a miracle" - sits a mile high in Cafayate, in northwest Argentina's Calchaqui Valley.  The family contends that the high elevation of their vineyards gives the grapes a "ripe, concentrated fruit expression with brighter acidity and extraordinary balance."

The Amalaya Malbec 2016 is a blend of grape varieties - 85% Malbec, 10% Tannat and 5% Petit Verdot.  It is aged for eight months in French oak, but only a quarter of the wine sees wood.  The wine's alcohol mark is just under 14% abv and it retails for $16.

As you might guess, the Tannat and Petit Verdot contribute to an extremely dark Malbec wine with a powerful nose of black fruit, black tar and black pepper.  A smoky quality shows up if you let sit for a bit.  The palate shows much more smoothly than I expected.  The tannins are firm, yet juicy.  Very dark flavors dominate, with the oak showing well and a savory finish to remind you how good it was.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Grounded Wine Company Steady State Red

Napa Valley winemaker Josh Phelps grew up literally among the vines.  He was raised in the wine business and surprised no one when he excelled at it as his own career.

Phelps' Grounded Wine Company, he notes, is "grounded in heritage, grounded in soil, grounded in simplicity."  The winery's mission is to "create wines that evoke a sense of place."  After all, that's what wine is all about.  Phelps says his wine system is in "steady state" and can be expected to continue that way into the future.

The Steady State Red Wine Napa Valley 2015 is a Bordeaux-style blend made with 73% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 8% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol hits a predictable 14.5% abv  and the wine sells for $65.

Steady State is very dark and smells that way.  Black berries, currant, anise and a trace of tar on the nose paint it, black.  The palate is fruity but serious, with a savory stripe cutting through the middle just barely on the tart side.  Acidity is bright and the tannins are moderate, so it's drinkable as well as pairable.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, March 19, 2018

Spumante Surprise

If you are anything like me - God help ya - you may be a tad surprised to hear the name Santa Margherita and not hear Pinot Grigio immediately afterward.  I was not so surprised to find the Italian winery making other wine styles.  Their Chianti is on the shelf at the supermarket, too.  There's a marketing push behind the company's sparkling rosé, as I was supplied with a sample.  So, you might expect to see it in the wine aisle soon, too. 

Santa Margherita's vineyards originated eight decades ago in the Veneto region.  Now they also raise grapes in Alto Adige and Tuscany. 

Santa Margherita Vino Spumante Rosé

The Santa Margherita Vino Spumante Rosé hits only 11.5% abv and sells for around 20 bucks.  It's an interesting rosé, because it's not made by limiting the skin contact to get pink.  It's made by blending white grapes with white.  The mix is 55% Chardonnay and 40% Glera grapes with a 5% splash of Malbec.  The grapes came from a hilly area of Treviso and an Eastern area in Veneto - the far northwestern corner of Italy.

This wine has frothy bubbles that disappear in an instant.  The nose comes on like a basket of cherries and strawberries, with a strong earthy streak through the middle of it.  It's dry on the palate with a tingly fruit presence and a nice acidity that will pair well with food.  The earthiness lingers on the finish.  If you drink Prosecco for your bubbly fun, you should try this lovely pink sparkler.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cab-Heavy Sonoma Blend Means Business

Four Ferrari-Carano wines were recently featured in an online virtual tasting session, of which I was invited to be a part.  The presentation was hosted by Chelsea Kurnick of McCue Communications and associate FC winemaker Rebecka Deike.  She handles the winery's red wine program.  She says she started out wanting to be an optometrist, but she saw her focus change to a wine career.

The point of the tasting was to highlight what great wines the selections are for the holiday table.  Their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay both served very well at Thanksgiving, and their Trésor red blend is well-suited for December festivities.

2013 Tresor, Sonoma County

The 2013 Trésor, features the five Bordeaux grapes in a Cab-heavy setting with big flavor and a little more new oak used in aging. Lush, the wine certainly lives up to its name as a "treasure."

The blend of five noble grapes from Bordeaux has 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  The wines are vinified separately in oak barrels, then aged there for 21 months before blending.  Forty-two percent of the oak was new.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and Trésor retails for $55.  If you're into label art, Marco Sassone's work on Trésor is beautiful.

Tresor is a deep ruby wine that lets the Cab come through.  The nose is laden with black and blue berries, cassis, oak spice and some pencil shavings.  The palate is beautifully savory, with a cloak of olives, cigars and coffee grounds comforting the dark fruit.  A little spice and a little smoke from those supporting grapes plays very well.  The finish is lengthy, acidity is perfect and the tannins are medium-strong.  Online tasers liked the idea of pairing Trésor with ribs, lamb, duck or strong cheeses, and so do I.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, December 15, 2017

Argentine Wine: Norton Malbec Reserva

The Malbec grape grows all over the world, but nowhere as in Argentina.  They grow about three-quarters of the world's Malbec grapes.  If Cab is king in the U.S., Malbec is monarch in Argentina.  Poorer wine producers in the country sometimes can't afford enough French oak barrels to go around for all their wines.  If a wine has to go naked, or unoaked, to stretch the peso, it'll be Cabernet Sauvignon that does without, not Malbec. 

Often relegated to the status of "blending grape" in France, Malbec is revered in Argentina and used most often in varietal wines.  The Argentines sometimes mix it with Bonarda, a South American treasure that has yet to break out globally, but watch out when it does.  It's a beautiful grape, too.  Malbec grows better and maintains its acidity in higher elevations, so you find it often in mountainous regions.

Bodega Norton sits in the foothills of the Andes in Mendoza's Lujan de Cuyo region, a place known for its Malbec plantings.  Their five vineyards in the First Zone of quality are planted with vines that average 30 years old, but some are as old as 80 years.  They were reportedly the first winery in the area some 120 years ago.  Norton is possibly the most familiar Argentine label for American wine lovers. 

The 100% Malbec wine is aged 12 months in French oak, then more in the bottle.  Alcohol is restrained, at 13.5% abv.  It retails for $19.  The Reserva Malbec consistently gets high ratings from those who attach numbers to wines and made a leading "Best Of" list last year.  It's one of Norton's new line of signature wines, and they also are unveiling a Privada Family Blend line which reportedly were once reserved for their private cellars.

This Norton is pitch-dark with a red rim and carries dark aromas on its nose.  Blackberry, blueberry and currant are predominant, with smoke and a rack full of holiday spices completing the scene.  On the palate, rich bold fruit comes forward on a wave of pepper and minerals.  The acidity is bright and the tannins are perfect, enough for a meat feast but not too much for sipping.  It’s a delightfully smooth quaff.  The savory aspect lingers medium-long on the finish.  It drinks like a youthful wine that is beginning to take on the character of its few years.