Tuesday, April 29, 2008

10 good wines for Under $10

Here is a list (from this blog) of 10 good wines, mostly Italian, that you can get for under $10 a bottle:

Monte Antico Toscano 2004 IGT Italy
Colosi Sicilia Rosso Nero D’Avola 2005
Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere 2006 Chile
Straccali Sangiovese Di Toscana 2004 IGT Italy
Bodegas Zabrin Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines 2006 Spain
Casal Thaulero Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2006 DOC Italy
Fattoria di Bibbiani Poggio Vignoso Chianti 2005 DOCG Italy
Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico DOCG 2004 (375 ML) Italy
Rocca Delle Macie Rubizzo Sangiovese di Toscana 2006 IGT Italy
Rocca Delle Macie Campomaccione Morellino Di Scansano DOC 2006 Italy

Sunday, April 27, 2008

J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

This Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, California is made from 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petite Sirah, 5% Syrah, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 1% Malbec-- quite an intense mix, but it works. Stainless steel fermentation, then 14-16 months in oak casks. Bright reddish purple in color with strong fruity fragrance of cherries cedar and blackberries, and cherry soda, chocolate and vanilla on the mouth. Enjoyed this with a cheeseburger at a new restaurant in Forest Hills called Bonfire Grill, at $9.50 a glass. 13.8% alcohol.

Bandol Domaine De Fregate 2003

This dry red wine from Provence, France is made from 80% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache grapes (vinified separately) and oaked in barrels for 18 months. Light ruby red, and warmer colors around the edges. A good casual wine to have a meal with (meats, cheeses, mushrooms, or red sauce) -- there is a light berry and oak nose, with dry raisin and moderate tannins and 13-14% alcohol. Bon! (Thanks Carolina.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Torre Quarto Bottaccia Nero Di Troia 2005 IGT

This 100% Nero Di Troia (black grape of Troia, also known as Uva di Troia) is indigenous to the Puglia region of Italy, and makes for a wine with very earthy mineral undertones. The color is dark ruby with copper around the edges, medium to heavy weight, on the nose are super ripe cherries, with extremely balanced flavors. This is a proud wine with elegance and sophistication and improved within an hour of decanting. A big thank you goes out to the guys at In Vino for the recommendation.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cantina Di Casteggio Oltrepo Pavese Barbera 2005 DOC

Italy This medium weight ruby colored 100% Barbera is unoaked, so there's no wood influence, allowing a nose of pure mild red fruits, a palate of sour cherries, spice, white pepper, and a mix of fragrant herbs. After an hour of decanting the finish was smooth and fleeting, but after 4 hours the finish stretched out nicely. The mild tannins would hold up well to a pork or veal dish, or even barbecue. We are in the $12 range. A really nice wine from The Wine Room.

Black Coyote 2004 Stag's Leap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon California

Today after work a few of us got together and sampled a really powerful bottle of wine from California. Powerful because it is 15.1% alcohol, but also because it's intensity is almost visible. Called Black Coyote Bates Creek Vineyard 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon... it's 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot and barreled for 19 months in new and used French oak. The color is a unique deep purple with the opacity of ink. On the nose is an intense wave of fruits, dark berries, cherries, even a little hint of apple, and wet hay. On the palate there was a full fruit bomb, high alcohol flavor, chocolate and wood... and a nice long velvety finish. I believe they're already sold out of the 2004, so if you spot a bottle anywhere (it's in the $30-40 range and well worth it), grab it and hold it for a few years. Damn good bottle of wine, Thanks Jordan!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Interview with Augusto Cardona, Sales Manager, Italian Wine Merchants

Following is an interview with Augusto Cardona, Sales Manager, Italian Wine Merchants:

What was the first wine that made you realize you loved wine?

Damijan Ribolla Gialla 2002 made me change the way I look at white wine, and the first time I had Quintarelli Amarone I knew I’d never tasted anything even close to that before. However I have to say that the wine that did it for me, that truly made me realize that I love wine was Bartolo Mascarello’s 1989 Barolo (out of magnum). Like the Quintarelli it possessed layers and depth that I could draw few comparisons to, and definitely had the "what was that?" impact on me. However the one thing that made this one truly stand out was it’s elegance. To this day if you asked me to describe my idea of “elegance” I would have to say that that wine is an example that I would use.

Describe your perfect meal and the wine you'd pair with it?

Well, since I just got back from Piemonte how could I not mention white truffles on Tajarin with aged Barolo. But there is also something to be said about the simplicity of a white like Verdicchio from Le Marche (look for Sartarelli) that work their magic with the seafood of the Adriatic on a summer day. The zing and citrus nuances bring just about any fish back to life - no sauces needed here - just some grilled fish and lemon. A Rosso di Montalcino with some pici topped with wild boar ragu is also a nice, simple classic pair.

What's the most common misconception that people have about wine?

High Points = Good Wine. That is the exact misconception that we try to dispel everyday here at IWM.
This is only one of the negatives associated with the rating system; in the end the rating system can deter people from establishing or discovering their own individual palate. Part of my responsibility is getting someone the wine that is best for them based on palate preference and understanding - it is an important part of our philosophy at IWM. A great read that captures our position on this is "When 84 Points Is Better Than 100" from our weekly eLetter.

What's your newest find for under $20?

In this range I am looking for wines that are going to match my everyday eating as well as obscure varietals and regions (especially when talking Italian). We just received a number of new, interesting wines in the store that fit this bill. One in particular that I am very fond of is the Frecciarossa Uva Rara. This is 100% Uvarara from the Oltrepo Pavese area of Lombardia in northern Italy. Just an extremely rare varietal from an often underrated region in Italy. There is ~1,500 cases made.

Is there a wine you've always wanted to try, but never had the chance to?

I would be lying to you if I said I wouldn't love to try a 1945 Mouton or 1947 Cheval Blanc. But at the prices they carry and the build up they received, that glass is carrying a lot of pressure to perform. I have read about them and I have clients who keep their mythical status alive. These Bordeaux have such large production, to me if I am going into the priceless realm, I would have to say the 1888 Biondi Santi Brunello Riserva would be up there. Only three remain at the estate, this is the wine that showed the world that Italy has wines that can age.

All three of those are the monuments to wine and would be on many wish lists, but really for me, I am fascinated by the biodynamic accomplishments of the Movia estate which has Ribollas dating back to the 1950s in their cellar. This overshadowed varietal of Friuli (and parts of Slovenia) has the structure to age and dispel a lot of beliefs about Italian whites (it should be noted the estate has vineyards that reside in both Italy and Slovenia as it rests on the border there.) The same is true for Mastroberardino with the varietal he helped rescue from extinction, Fiano. The estate still has bottles that date back to the 1950s – I’d love to try those.

Lastly, there are the mythical whites of the Fiorano estate from Prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi - or as Eric Asimov of The New York Times describes puts it, the Prince and His Magic Cellar. The story is as intriguing as the wines. Strangely enough, these wines are from Lazio, not the first region you would think of to experience a dream wine. On top of that the whites are made up of Semillion and Malvasia - not the most exciting grapes. Yet, the wines challenge all convictions with their ability to age thirty years and deliver a flavor profile and experience that challenges the greatest whites in the world. The eccentric Prince, who rarely released his wines, wanted the wines to land in the hands of enthusiasts that would appreciate their complexity and he could only think of only one person. The Prince tore up his vineyards, so that they would not fall into the wrong hands, and left the entire cellar (consisting of thousands of bottles from the 1970s to 'the 1990's) to the great Italian wine journalist and personality Luigi Veronelli. Luigi kept his promise of maintaining the integrity of the wine and shortly before his death he passed the responsibility and wines to Sergio Esposito of IWM. Sergio is keeping that promise now by delivering the wines responsibly - in fact, we sell very few bottles each year. I don't do the story justice, but it is one of those great wines stories that enthusiasts love to read about. It is a story that Sergio has captured in his upcoming book, Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Family in the Heart of Italy

I have had the opportunity to taste four vintages from the Fiorano estate, but there are several vintages I have not yet experienced, which would make them the wine I want to experience most. Italy gets little credit for its whites, but these three have proven that age-worthy whites in Italy do exist.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rocca Delle Macie Campomaccione Morellino Di Scansano DOC 2006

©2008 photo by Dave Trieger
Blend is 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot. Rocca Delle Macie Campomaccione Morellino Di Scansano DOC 2006 is a ruby red, dry, full-bodied wine from Tuscany with ripe red fruit and chocolate on the nose, and a fresh smooth palate with a good finish. 13% alcohol and $7.99.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Community House of Forest Hills presents A Benefit for the CH Children's Programs

Taste of Forest Hills 2008
The Community House of Forest Hills

Sponsored by:
The Wine Room of Forest Hills & The Shops at Atlas Park

Saturday, April 26, 2008 1:00 - 4:00 pm

Amish Market, La Tavernetta, CPK, Q-Thai Bistro, La Vigna, Garcia’s, Dee’s Brick Oven Pizza, Pasticcio, The Family Restaurant, Metro Café, Da Silvana, London Lennie’s, db Wine Bar & Restaurant, Morrison’s Bar & Restaurant, My Kitchen & La Dolce Italia are just a few of the fine participating businesses who will be here to savor your appetites!

General Admission
$30 per person CH Members
$40.00 per person non CH Members
VIP Admission $50 per person includes VIP gift bag, special raffle drawing & complimentary glass of wine.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere 2006 Chile

This Carmenere from Chile is aged for 8 months in small oak barrels, is a deep purple red, has mild floral aromas and complex fruit flavors including cherry, with spice and vanilla. This is an interesting pick... the flavor profile is unique (it's my first 100% Carmenere)... I haven't seen many around. Found this at The Wine Room of Forest Hills in the $10 range.

Hell's Canyon Artists Conservation Series Retriever Red

This is a red wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in Idaho, that's right I said Idaho. Color is clean, deep reddish purple, with a nice intense nose of bubble gum, cherries, blackberries and black pepper, and a balanced crisp finish. Price was in the $15 range and sorry, I didn't include the vintage year in my tasting notes... but I believe it was a 2005.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Chateau Grand Moulin 2005 France

This red wine from France is a blend of Syrah and Grenache grapes. Color is clear dark garnet red with cherries, ripe fruit and tar on the nose. Palate has black cherry and white pepper undertones and moderate tannin. It is paired well with warm gruyere gougeres. Not bad by the glass for $9.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Straccali Sangiovese Di Toscana 2004 IGT

This Straccali Sangiovese Di Toscana 2004 IGT is a 100% Sangiovese red wine made from grapes from various locations in Tuscany, Italy. There's barnyard on the nose with black cherry and oak with cinnamon, and mild flavors of fruit and good balance. This is an inexpensive, but decent everyday wine, I believe it was $6.

What is Meritage?

The short and sweet answer is... old world wines (European) were known and labeled according to the region of their origin, while new world wines (the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc) were known and labeled by the grape or varietal. When they began blending different grapes they had trouble defining the wines, and knew that these wines would be better than just "table wine"...so they needed a term to use in order to get closer to old world processes. They had a contest and the winning term was "Meritage" (pronounced like "heritage") which was a combined form of Merit and Heritage.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fattoria Del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2004 DOCG

©photo 2008 by Dave Trieger
This 2004 DOCG from Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy is made from 80% Prugnolo Gentile (a Sangiovese clone) and a 20% blend of Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo. 80% of the grapes are aged for two years in Slavonian oak and 20% in French oak. On the nose is cherry, oak, rose and vanilla and on the palate black cherries with moderate tannins and a smooth medium finish. In the $20 neighborhood, this is a good vintage to drink now but you can also cellar it for a few years. This winner can be found at The Wine Room.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Halleck Vineyards Clone 828 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006

Today, at a tasting at the Waldorf Astoria given by Martin Scott Wines, I had the opportunity to sample over 50 Pinot Noirs. I couldn't try them all but one that really stood out was the Halleck Vineyards Clone 828 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006. 828 is an individual clone and individual vineyard near Annapolis, about two hours north. It's a dark deep color with a concentrated nose of Italian pastries, cherry tar, spice, and earth. On the palate is oak, raspberry and more spice with medium tannins, and an excellent long finish.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 California

This California Pinot Noir aged in French oak for 7 months opens with aromas of ripe black cherry, little hints of chocolate & vanilla, wood and spicy clove. On the palate is cherry again, and plum. Balanced acidity and firm tannins give this a nice finish. High alcohol content, 14.6% and price of $19. Sampled this wine at a tasting at Rosetta Wines.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bodegas Zabrin Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines 2006 Spain

Bodegas Zabrin Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines 2006 • This Grenache from Spain's Catalayud region has a bouquet of spices and smoke, soft tannins and on the palate, cherry, plums, and vanilla. Medium bodied, 14% alcohol, and ruby red, this went well with a cavatelli pasta with garlic and olive oil, sausage and broccoli rape. Finish was ripe sour fruits. Nice price of $7 makes it a no-brainer for an everyday wine with dinner. Picked this up at Rosetta Wines.

What makes a wine Organic or green?

Organic Wineries who are working to save the planet these days have a long list of weapons to use. The limiting or elimination of pesticides or herbicides has been the main tool, but there's much more... water conservation, solar power, the use of bio-diesel for farm vehicles, tractors and trucks, earth friendly packaging (recycled paper & cardboard), and carbon-neutral status (to neutralize the effect of personal greenhouse gas emissions, and not contribute to dangers of global warming). Besides the wines will end up tasting better.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chateau Haut Montaud 2005 Grand Vin De Bordeaux France

2005 has turned out to be a banner year for French Bordeaux. This is an inexpensive one but still carries itself with head high. It's color is clear ruby red, with medium to heavy body, nose of cherries and wood smoke. Medium tannins at first open nicely to draw out the plum, cassis, and black pepper on the palate. The $11 price tag is well worth it. I wouldn't be surprised if a year or two in a cellar would bring out the luster.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico DOCG 2004

ItalyRocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico is made from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, and 5% Canaiolo, the grapes for this Chianti Classico are selected and picked by hand. The must undergoes maceration over the grape skins for 12-14 days. Following the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, the wine is then aged in Slavonian or French oak barrels for a period of 6 to 10 months and refined further in the bottle for about one month. It is full bodied, warm robust with flavors of cherries and a nose of spice, jam and wood. 13.5% alcohol. Picked up a half bottle (375 ML) for about $7.99 at The Wine Room. What a great little bottle of wine.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor Blend 2004 Argentina

This Mendoza red wine blend from Argentina is composed of 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Malbec, and 33% Merlot, aged in French oak for 12 months. It has a very intense floral nose, deep purple red color, the palate is dark cherry, toast. It's full bodied and long on the finish. Recommended by the restaurant (Alberto's}.

Il Nero Di Casanova Della Spinetta 2005 IGT

Italy • This 95% Sangiovese with 5% Colorino from Terricola, Tuscany is a medium to full bodied, deep burgundy color, has cherries on the nose and fruity bubble gum, palate is luscious apple cherry on back of tongue.

Marquez de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2002 Spain

Spain • This dry red wine in the familiar silver netted bottle is made from 90% tempranillo, 10% graciano y mazuelo grapes aged 2 years in American oak. Color is ruby red with medium to heavy weight and on the nose is raspberry and cherry and on the palate chocolate, tabasco and slight hint of mold or mushroom. Price ranges $13-17 and 14% alcohol.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rocca Delle Macie Roccato 1997 IGT Supertuscan

Rocca Delle Macie was started by Italian film star Italo Zingarelli, and is now run by his son Sergio. Their attention to quality and detail put them at the forefront of Italian wines.

This dry red Super Tuscan Italian wine is made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Sangiovese Rosso. They're barriqued separately, the Cabernet for 15 months and the Sangiovese for 12 months. Then put into 3000 litre French oak barrels for three months and finally in bottle for 1 year. It is a full bodied deep garnet ink color, almost opaque after 11 years. There is an earthy elegance on the nose with oak, and toast from so much time in those barriques. On the palate are currants, minerals, even tannins and a nice long finish. This vintage was one of the best in 100 years in Italy. Wine Spectator gave this a 97. This wine really, really made my day.

©2008 photo by Dave Trieger

Casal Thaulero Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2006 DOC

This Casal Thaulero Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2006 red wine from Abruzzo is a nice 100% Montepulciano, ruby red in color, very dry, soft aromas with notes of sour berries. A nice deal in the $8 range, it has 12.5% alcohol. photo from Casal Thaulero website.

Fourplay Rosso 2005 Sicily

Italy • This dry red wine from Sicily is 25% Frapatto Nero, 25% Nerello Cappuciccio, 25% Nerella Mascalese and 25% Nero D'avola. Color is ruby red with medium to heavy weight and on the nose is soft cherry and a fruity chocolate. The palate has a complex, spicy smoothness with slight sour notes on the back of the mouth.

Friday, April 4, 2008

House Wines

There was a time when ordering a house wine at a restaurant would be a gamble. You could just imagine the owners gathering all the unfinished bottles and siphoning them into a big carafe in the back room. I hope that only happened in my imagination. But nowadays restaurateurs, wine managers and sommeliers seem to be going to greater lengths to provide their customers with good, not-too-expensive wines.

In an informal interview I found that 13 out of 14 people out for dinner would order the house wine. I think that says to me that they have much more confidence that they will get a good deal. Some of the wines I discovered and reviewed on this site were wines I ordered as house wines. So, if you don’t recognize anything on the wine list, give the house wine a chance. Cent’anni.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

An Interview with Keith Beavers

The following is an interview with Keith Beavers, co-owner of In Vino Wine Bar & Restaurant and Alphabet City Wine Co. Keith also writes a blog called East Village Wine Geek.

What was the first wine that made you realize you loved wine?

It was a 1999 Paternoster Aglianico Del Vulture Don Anselmo. It was so full bodied and robust with rose petals and licorice and a tannin structure as mammoth as the mountain it was grown near yet harnessed and balanced. It sent off alarms in my mind and soul telling me this was very important somehow. And here I am a servant of wine, spreading the love...I hope.

Describe your perfect meal and the wine you'd pair it with?

Lamb, Baby! Lamb. Give me an herb encrusted medium rare, seared and roasted rack of New Zealand lamb served with a side of marinated mushroom and white bean salad (with some caramelized onions maybe) served over a bed of mixed greens. OOOHHHH WEEEE! Put me at a table with this dish and a bottle of Pont de Crillon 2005 Pont de Crillon Les Chais de Pont de Crillon Cote Du Rhone and I am a happy wine geek. Don't bother me I am eating. This beautiful Syrah is one of the most subtle and integrated Rhones I have had yet. It is earthy without too much soil and has a deep pepper fruit that is not separated from the body but is swimming through the fruit. Not only does it compliment the flavors of the dish but takes on a life of its own as on your palate. And it's twelve bucks!!

What's the most common misconception that people have about wine?

That wine has to be expensive to be good or even great. Then there's that whole Montepulciano d'Abruzzo versus Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. But the first is the biggest.

What's your newest find for under $20?

I am really diggin' this beautiful blend from Gascogne called Le Rouge Gorge. It is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Tannat. I have never had a blend like this and only the French could pull this one off. Tannat is one of the most tannic grapes on the globe but somehow this producer finds calm balance in the blend. This wine is powerful yet subtle with lean, deep berry fruit and a gripping tannin structure that holds on just long enough for some face time and then it blends into the fruit and allows the subtle peppery cab franc notes to come center stage for a bit. It's a beautiful wine and it's only eleven bucks.

Is there a wine you've always wanted to try, but never had the chance to?

Every wine I have not tried yet! But seriously if anyone wants to pop on over to Alphabet City Wine Co. and bring a bottle of 1996 Grand Cru Burgundy ... I am there Tuesday, Thursday Friday and Saturday. No pressure. I will be waiting...but no pressure.