Showing posts with label Merlot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Merlot. Show all posts

Monday, February 19, 2024

Oakless Chianti

If all you know of Italy's Chianti region is that straw-wrapped wine bottle with the candle drippings down the side from your college dorm, you need to know more.  First of all, they dispensed with the straw baskets years ago.  Second, the area has undergone a complete transformation since those days.  It is now home to some of Tuscany's best wines.

Ruffino was founded in 1877, when cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino set up a small winery in the town of Pontassieve, near Florence.  Wine had been a thing there for ages, but the two Tuscan natives felt certain that much of the area's greatness had yet to be revealed, what with Tuscany's mineral-laden soils, the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the dry summers that wine grapes just love. 

Ruffino lays claim to being one of the first major wineries with vineyard estates in Italy's three most famous wine-producing regions – Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The 2020 Chianti Superiore is made from 70% Sangiovese grapes and a 30% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Those grapes really get a chance to shine, since aging takes place in concrete and stainless steel tanks for six months, then another two months in the bottle.  Superiore serves as a sort of midpoint between the Chianti DOCG and the more complex Chianti Classico.  Alcohol ticks 13.5% abv and it generally sells for around $12.

Aromas of black cherry and dark raspberry come forth on the nose, nice and bright due to the oakless aging process. Acidity is refreshing and the tannins are firm. This is a good wine to pair with a spaghetti dinner, with or without meatballs. 


Monday, January 1, 2024

I'll Have This Merlot Anytime

The Now And Zin Wine Country series started in 2011, with Virginia wine. In the dozen years since then I have sampled wines from 46 states. The last four - Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - have proven to be tough nuts to crack, for a variety of reasons. There are fewer opportunities in those states and shipping restrictions, to name two. I'll press on to find wines from those states, but when I get a chance to revisit a previous stop, I'll jump at the chance. Especially when it is Virginia. 

The Old Dominion State has 291 wineries, by Wine America's count. That's good enough for 6th place in the winery count. As far as wine production goes, Virginia lags a little more behind, in eighth place. 

Bluestone Vineyard was started near Bridgewater twenty or so years ago when Curt and Jackie Hartman started growing grapes to make wine for personal use. They found that once you start planting vines, what's a few thousand more? Lee Hartman is the winemaker, making it a true family operation.

The 2021 Bluestone Vineyard Shenandoah Valley Merlot has alcohol at 13.2% abv and sells for about $27.

This wine has a medium-dark purple color and a fruity nose, draped with oak spice. The blackberry and cassis aromas are joined by notes of cedar, clove, allspice, anise and a touch of smoke. The fruit-forward palate boasts a strong earthiness and a savory aspect. Tannins are firm and acidity is refreshing. The finish lasts a good long while. I like it with pork, but a nice New York strip steak is also a good pairing.


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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Wine Country Virginia - Bluestone Vineyard

The Now And Zin Wine Country series started in 2011, with Virginia wine. In the dozen years since then I have sampled wines from 46 states. The last four - Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - have proven to be tough nuts to crack, for a variety of reasons. There are fewer opportunities in those states and shipping restrictions, to name two. I'll press on to find wines from those states, but when I get a chance to revisit a previous stop, I'll jump at the chance. Especially when it is Virginia. 

The Old Dominion State has 291 wineries, by Wine America's count. That's good enough for 6th place nationally in the winery count. As far as wine production goes, Virginia lags a little more behind, in eighth place. 

Bluestone Vineyard is in Bridgewater, VA, right in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley. Their name is derived from the type of limestone found in their soil. Bridgewater Crimson 2021 Virginia Red Wine is a Bordeaux-style blend of Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Alcohol rests easy at 13% abv and the retail price is just under $25.

This wine pours up purple in the glass and gives off a savory aroma package. The red fruit is heavily colored by a delicious earthiness. Oak is present, but not obvious. On the palate, there is brambly red fruit - cherries, plums, raspberries - and a fine set of tannins with zesty acidity. This is a fine food wine - I had mine with pumpkin pie - but also one that allows the sipper to ruminate on what is found there. 


Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Bordeaux Grapes Via Israel

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginnings in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

Bin Nun is a new boutique Israeli winery. Winemakers Itzhak Lotan, Eddy Gandler and Danny Yaniv, under consulting winemaker Irit Boxer, work with grapes grown in well-drained clay loam soils above a limestone subsoil. Are you thinking of Bordeaux? So are they.

There is a quote from Benjamin Franklin on their website, in which he said that wine is proof that "God loves us, and loves to see us happy!" I like that thought.

The Bin Nun wines include Reserve ($39.99), Cuvée ($49.99), and Songs of Solomon ($79.99). Speaking of songs, they also have a strong connection with the world of jazz, with labels like Grappelli, Marsalis, Blue Note and Chanson. I was given a sample of the 2021 Bin Nun Judean Hills Reserve to try, which was made from 55% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 37% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Aging took place in French oak barrels for 12 months. This $40 bottle carries alcohol at 14% abv, it is non-mevushal and kosher for Passover.

This wine definitely feels like BDX. It is dark, it smells of the earth and it tastes like the best of the world. Aromas of black fruit are joined on the nose by tar, tobacco, vanilla, clove and cedar. The palate is also dark, boasting blackberry, blackcurrant and coffee notes. The tannins are firm and the acidity is fresh. Try it with any steak from your grill. Or just sip it. Either way, you'll be happy. 


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.


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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Red Blend From The Holy Land

Wine from Israel isn’t just for Jewish holy days, but here is a kosher wine from the holy land.  Carmel Winery was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who was the owner of Château Lafite in Bordeaux.   Carmel is now under the Royal Wine Company umbrella.  The winery covers a lot of land in Israel - more than 3,000 acres of vineyards in some of the country's prime growing regions: Carmel Mountains, Upper Galilee and Judean Hills.

The 2019 Carmel Private Collection Winemakers Blend is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made by Carmel's Chief Winemaker Yiftach Peretz. The wine aged for only eight months in French and American oak barrels, but it feels like a little more. The Winemakers Blend clicks 14% abv in alcohol and retails in the $15 range.

This wine is dark and offers up a nose of black cherry, cassis, licorice and a chalky, dusty note of earth. On the palate, the tannins bite a bit but the flavor is there. Dark red fruit leads the way with oak spice playing a minor role. There is a tingly acidity and the spicy finish is medium long. It is a serviceable wine, if not one to ruminate on very long.  


Monday, May 29, 2023

Scouting Around For A Good Rosé

Every now and then, the wine world reveals a surprise to us. The bottle of rosé I opened boasted nothing more than a "California" appellation on the front label. That is usually a red flag indicating that the grapes were grown in subpar regions. On the back label, though, was a note that it was bottled in Santa Maria, CA. That happens to be one of my favorite growing regions in the state. I let my hopes get up. 

Scout Wild Rosé was founded by former lawyer Sarah Shadonix out of North Texas. Scout Wild Wines is located in Santa Maria. The wine tastes so good that I just knew there were Santa Maria grapes in there - I just knew it.

A bit of research revealed that the grapes were - as the label touts - sustainably grown, vegan friendly and gluten free. They were harvested from a place called L&P Ranch - which I could not locate - and Joe Soghomonion Farms, of Fresno. 

It was a downer to find that this wine was made from Central Valley grapes, only because I like to think I can make deductions about wines like the big sommeliers do. At least I pinpointed one of the grapes - the wine is 48% Grenache. The 48% portion of Merlot escaped me completely and the 4% splash of Valdiguié - which they call Napa Gamay - never entered my mind. Alcohol rests at 13.9% abv and it sells for $19.

This wine is a pretty light pink in the glass and has a nose which shows ripe red strawberries and cherries. A slight savory note floats in and out on the sniff. The palate is delicious - full of bright fruit - and has a bit of heft to it, along with a good slap of minerality.


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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. 


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Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Israeli Wine With A Touch Of Volcano

Israel's Carmel Winery launched their fine wine line two years ago. They have now expanded Carmel Signature Single Vineyards to include wine made from volcanic soil. The new Volcano series introduces a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot to the winery's luxury line. The wines were both grown in an Upper Galilee vineyard that is rich in volcanic earth. Both are kosher for Passover.

The 2020 Evyatar Creek Merlot was aged for a year and a half in French oak barrels, with another year of maturation in the bottle afterward. Head winemaker Yiftah Perets says the wine was produced in a unique growing area, on the slopes of the Dalton Volcano, 2700 feet in elevation.

The nose features bright red cherry aromas along with some campfire smoke, black pepper and a minty herbal note. The medium dark wine offers a palate that is rich and dark, graced with good tannic structure, refreshing acidity and a long finish that begs for a pairing with beef, game or even a smoked cheese.


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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A Twist On The Super Tuscan Recipe

San Felice is an Italian wine estate situated a half hour from Siena, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. Their flagship wine, Vigorello, has grown and matured along with the winery. It started off in 1968, as a 100% Sangiovese wine. It was the first wine from Tuscany to incorporate international wine grapes, making Vigorello the first Super Tuscan wine. 

Today, Vigorello is crafted from 35% Pugnitello grapes, 30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Pugnitello is a grape native to Tuscany. Once thought to be Montepulciano, but DNA research showed that it is its own grape. Pugnitello languished almost forgotten for years before being resurrected by studies at the University of Florence. 

The grapes sprouted early in the 2018 vintage for San Felice. A warm March and April were followed by a rainy May and the usual mix of heat and showers for the summer. September brought about sunny days and cool nights, which helped the grapes along to their proper maturity.

The fruit was vinified and aged for 24 months in French oak barriques, then aged another eight months in the bottle. Alcohol tips 14% abv while the wine retails for around $60.

Vigorello is a dark wine, allowing almost no light to pass through it. The nose holds a savory shield over the fruit aromas of plum, blackberry and raspberry. The palate is a complete joy - full of dark fruit which is colored by a rustic earthiness. The wine isn’t afraid to flex its muscles. The tannins are firm, but fine. That, plus the refreshing acidity, makes for a wine which is literally made for the dinner table.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Bordeaux Bargain From Between The Seas

Four generations of the Goulpier family have stood at the helm of Château Rousset Caillau since the clan gave up baking for winemaking in 1929. The estate is in the region called "Entre-Deux-Mers," which translates to "between two seas." The land on which they are located is actually an island between two estuaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne which flow through Bordeaux. 

The grapes that make up the 2020 Château Rousset Caillau Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge are 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. They were vinified in stainless steel and aged 60% in oak and 40% in those steel tanks. Alcohol tips in at 14% abv and the wine sells for about $15. I got mine on sale for a couple of bucks less.

This Bordeaux bargain pours up as a medium-dark, rich purple. The nose is rather muted, although bright cherry and cassis notes do pop through. There is also some caramel and a faint hint of funk - nothing unpleasant, just a bit off-center. The tannic grip is really firm and the fruit is tempered with a savory streak - and that ever-so-slight bit of funk. Altogether, probably not a wine I would seek out again, but it didn't sip too badly and worked great in a Sunday soup I made. 


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Not Your Usual Dessert Wine

Chateau de Beaulon has been a family-owned estate since 1712 and is now under the direction of Christian Thomas. The gothic château itself dates back a further couple of centuries, to the era of Louis XI. 

Pineau des Charentes is a style of dessert wine made in special areas of Bordeaux. It is widely known as an aperitif, but the folks at Beaulon say that's too restrictive for the many uses of their Pineau. 

The Beaulon Pineau des Charentes Rouge, made available to me, is made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It was aged for five years in oak barrels. Alcohol is fortified to 19% abv and the retail price is $25, cheap for a wine of this style and quality.

They make a white version, too, from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The Château is also known for its cognac, made from estate-grown Folle Blanche, Colombard and Montils grapes.

This dessert wine is a deep reddish brown in color, almost a chestnut hue. The nose is aromatic and quite beautiful - brown sugar, raisins, espresso and a hint of orange peel aromas rise up from the glass. On the palate the wine is very viscous and shows distinct legs. Flavors of coffee, caramel and citrus dominate the sip. The acidity is fresh and bright, and the overall savory feel helps make this a wine that can be paired with more than just sweets.


Monday, August 8, 2022

Cabernet From Alexander Valley

Sebastiani has been in the winemaking game for more than a century, and they haven't lasted that long by shrugging their shoulders and saying, "It's good enough." Vintner Bill Foley and Winemaker Mark Beaman work together to bring honor to the Sebastiani legacy with single-vineyard and sub-appellation wines that live up to expectations. 

The 2019 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 6% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot and 2% Petite Sirah, all grown in the warm Alexander Valley AVA. The wine aged for 16 months in 15% new French and Hungarian oak barrels, with the remaining wine aging in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol is lofty, at 14.9% abv, and the retail price is $45.

This wine is inky looking and carries a wonderfully demonstrative package of aromas. The nose has classic notes of graphite, but also features black tea, sage, oregano and a healthy lump of earth - that good, Sonoma dirt. On the palate are bright cherries, tea, herbs and minerals. The tannins are firm without being overbearing and the acidity is quite refreshing. You could chill this wine and open it next to the grill this summer - or you could have in cooler weather with a beef stew. 


Monday, June 6, 2022

Chianti Comes To Los Angeles

The Chianti Lovers U.S. Tour 2022 hit SoCal in May, setting up shop for the afternoon at The London West Hollywood. The presentation was an immersive exploration of the Chianti wine region of Tuscany, with a sit-down guided tasting of wines and a walk-around tasting which left the trade and media types bumping from table to table, glasses in hands. Here are a few favorites from a handful of producers, most of which are seeking representation in America.

Cantina Sorelli

Their 2021 Chianti D.O.C.G. has a beautiful nose full of roses, lavender and red fruit. Amazing.

Chianti Trambusti 

Their 2019 Toscana Rosso "Sentimento" has lovely, savory notes of cherry and herbs.

Montecchio 

Their 2019 Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. is heavy on the Sangiovese, light on the Merlot. Savory red fruit and 12 months in Slovenian oak.

The 2016 Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Gran Selezione "Pasquino" is all Sangiovese, aged in terra cotta vessels. So fresh still, six years later.

Piandaccoli 

Their 2019 I.G.T. Toscana Bianco is half Chardonnay and half Malvasia. Savory, seashore.

The 2020 Vino Spumante Rosato Brut "Vivendi" is the only sparkling wine in the world made from the Mammolo grape, I am told. It's a very nice step up from Prosecco.

The 2016 I.G.T. Toscana Rosso was the star of the show. It's an extremely savory red wine, while the 2015 Chianti D.O.C.G. Riserva "Cosmus" ran a close second.

Tentuta di Sticciano

Their 2021 I.G.T. Tosacono Rosato "Canto Delle Rose" shows fabulous strawberry and a wonderful salinity, in addition to some great acidity.

The 2018 I.G.T. Toscana Rosso "Indomito" has roses on the nose and a palate that's fruity and savory at once.


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Monday, April 25, 2022

Tuscany - Chianti Superiore

If all you know of Italy's Chianti region is that straw-wrapped wine bottle with the candle drippings down the side from your college dorm, you need to know more.  First of all, they dispensed with the straw baskets years ago.  Second, the area has undergone a complete transformation since those days.  It is now home to some of Tuscany's best wines.

Ruffino was founded in 1877, when cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino set up a small winery in the town of Pontassieve, near Florence.  Wine had been a thing there for ages, but the two Tuscan natives felt certain that much of the area's greatness had yet to be revealed, what with Tuscany's mineral-laden soils, the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the dry summers that wine grapes just love. 

Ruffino lays claim to being one of the first major wineries with vineyard estates in Italy's three most famous wine-producing regions – Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The 2019 Chianti Superiore is made from 70% Sangiovese grapes and a 30% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Those grapes really get a chance to shine, since aging took place in concrete and stainless steel tanks for six months, then another two months in the bottle.  Superiore serves as a sort of midpoint between the Chianti DOCG and Chianti Classico.  Alcohol ticks 13.5% abv and it generally sells for around $12.

This wine sports a nose that is laced with red and black fruit and earthy minerals.  The palate features plum, blackberry and cherry, with fine tannins and a wonderful acidity.  It tastes so fresh.  The finish is medium long and fruity.  Pair it with sausages or steaks, or a nice marinara sauce.


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Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Super Tuscan From Tenuta Luce

Located in Montalcino, Tuscany, - Toscana IGT - the Luce winery specializes in Super Tuscan wines.  La Vite Lucente is the estate's second bottling, a 50/50 blend of Sangiovese and Merlot.  The 2018 vintage was marked by rains in the winter and spring, which made up somewhat for the previous year's drought.  The summer was temperate and dry.

The 2018 Lucente was aged for a year in a mix of new and used barriques.  Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $30.

This brilliant red wine presents itself elegantly, with a nose that marries the fruit of Sangiovese with the smoke of Merlot.  Dark fruit is what you smell, with a bit of vanilla and spice from the wood.  The wine drinks spectacularly, with a full mouthfeel, soft tannins and a long-lasting finish.  My friendly neighborhood publicist feels that it is a great wine with which to toast a strong, bold woman on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022.


Monday, January 31, 2022

Not Government Wine

My friendly neighborhood publicist informs me that the San Francisco 49ers are the oldest professional sports team in the Bay Area.  They were founded in 1946 by San Francisco native Tony Morabito and have provided countless unforgettable plays along with five Lombardi Trophies for their fans.  This year, the scrapbook is missing one game, but there is something in which they can drown their sorrows.

The Federalist brand - a Terlato wine - is the "preferred wine sponsor of the San Francisco 49ers," according to my publicist friend.  The PR department promises that The Federalist, a Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, pairs well with "any tailgate specialty."  We can only assume that the promise is good even if the tailgates aren't on norcal trucks.

The 2017 Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon was reportedly created to honor the man who many consider to be the first American, Ben Franklin.  Franklin was a passionate man who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, campaigned for colonial unity during the American Revolution and they say he liked his wine.  His likeness appears on the label.  Their other wines feature George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the Statue of Liberty and the bald eagle.  The winery bills itself as "America's craft wine."

The Federalist is a bold blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, with splashes of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese.  Aging took place over 15 months, in 35% new French oak.  Alcohol hits a moderate 13.5% abv and the retail price is a reasonable $18.

This wine is medium dark in color and has dark notes on the nose - plums, blueberries, cassis.  The oak aspect of the aromas is not overpowering, but it is definitely there.  The palate tastes somewhat sweet, with fruit and oak spice showing right up front.  A savory angle comes in later - forest floor and minerals, mostly.  The tannins are workable, but not overbearing.  This wine won't make Napa vintners run scared, but it is a pleasant bottling and a pretty good everyday wine. 


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Paso Robles Winery Shapes Up Nicely

There is a long list of winery tasting rooms in Paso Robles which are fun to visit, but there's one you really have to see.  Sculpterra Winery pours some great wine, but they also show off some dandy visual arts to go with it.

Sculpterra's property is adorned with beautiful iron work from master blacksmith Bob Bentley and sculptures in bronze and granite by John Jagger.  It provides a real treat for the eyes, while the wines will gladden other senses.

The Sculpterra Maquette is made from four Bordeaux grape varieties - 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot - all grown in the Frankel Family Estate Vineyard.  The wine was fermented in new oak barrels and one-ton macro bins, then aged in oak for 18 months, 14% of which was new French.  Alcohol tips in at 14.5% abv and it sells for just under $50.

This wine is medium dark, with a brilliant ruby edge while pouring.  The nose brings red fruit - cherries, plums, raspberries - and a nice toasty vanilla note.  The palate offers plenty of fruit and a nice dollop of tannins, just right for pairing with some good meat.  I had it with my holiday filet of beef, and it was fine.  


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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Paso Robles Merlot, Via Los Angeles

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other L.A. wineries folded, the Riboli's winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

Maddalena Estate Reserve Paso Robles Merlot 2020

Maddalena Riboli was the inspiration for this wine.  More than a matriarch, Maddalena was instrumental in the family's success in the wine business.  The family says she even founded the first wine tasting room in California.  Her signature is on the front label and her picture is on the back.

The Ribolis say that Maddalena Merlot gives us "intense flavors, plush mouthfeel and deep colors," and they are right on all counts.  The wine has an alcohol level of 14.5% abv and it sells for less than $20.  

This Merlot is very dark, almost inky.  Its nose brings forth black cherry, anise and plum aromas, along with some sweet oak spice.  The palate is succulent and flavorful, with dark fruit and enough spice notes to bake a pie.  Tannins are rather gentle, so the sip is smooth.  I would like this wine paired with a pork shoulder or a creamy cheese.


Monday, December 27, 2021

Napa Vintner Scores With Merlot, Prosecco

Bread & Butter's promotional blurbs urge customers to "buy the one that looks like this," and "don't overthink it."  Those are probably not the best ad lines Madison Avenue ever came up with, but there is a streak of truth in them.  For these wines, anyway, maybe you should embrace the lack of a kitty on the label.  Maybe it is a relief to find a wine at the supermarket which does not have a name ground out from the "random animal + random geographical word" sausage maker.  You know, like "Bear River," "Porcupine Pass" or "Ocelot Springs."  

As I was driving through Los Angeles the other day - the very day I had to choose which wine to open when I got home - I found myself in traffic behind a Bread & Butter delivery truck.  I figure the signs won't get much clearer than that.  B&B's winemaker Linda Trotta says it best, "A good wine is a wine you like."

The 2019 Bread & Butter Merlot brings alcohol at a reined-in 13.5% abv, and the retail price is only $15.

This medium-dark Merlot smells delicious.  It's labeled as a California Merlot, with no further indication of where the grapes were grown.  Rich plum and classic aromas mingle with a bit of smoke and a bit of chocolate.  The palate is velvety and lush, with dark fruit, mocha and a minty finish.  The tannins are unobtrusive, yet they worked just fine with our Thanksgiving … steak.  Drink what you like, eat what you like.


The Bread & Butter Prosecco DOC is all Italian - made in a small town near Venice, says the website.  It has alcohol at 11% abv and the retail damage is $15.

This bubbly wine has a pretty, frothy head which dissipates quickly.  That leaves you with a greenish-yellow wine and a line of bubbles around the edge of the glass.  The nose is lovely - pears, apples, a bit of citrus minerality - and the palate follows suit.  It is a semi-sweet delight that is very festive and tasty.


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