Saturday, December 31, 2011

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Paso Robles

This Cabernet is super soft and very fruit forward with aromas of ripe red fruits, blackberry and forest floor, paired with a palate of berry flavors, chocolate, bing cherry, and a touch of oak. Rounding out with silky tannins, nice texture, and a ripe finish with good length, this Cab is especially food friendly. An unexpectedly good red California wine for $13 a bottle (An on line search may get you closer to $11, but you'll have to do your homework).

For over three decades, Liberty School has been among the best values in California wine. In the early 1980’s, Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles caught the attention of renowned Napa Valley vintner Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards. Because of the incredible quality and value of their Paso Robles Cab, Wagner approached Hope Farms in search of Cabernet for his second label wine, Liberty School. The Hope family helped build the brand’s solid reputation over the years and in 1996, the Hopes took over the label. Austin Hope, who started working under Chuck Wagner, in the early 1990s, heads the winemaking team and their goal has always been the same; to produce delicious, fruit-driven, varietally correct wines at reasonable prices. That’s what this Liberty School 2008 Cab is all about. It offers vibrant cassis and berry fruit with supple tannins and just touch of oak.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mohua Sauvignon Blanc 2010 New Zealand

Marlborough, NZ does some nice things with Sauvignon Blancs and here's proof at a good price. Super fresh and crisp with waves of lemon drops and tropical fruits, pineapple, and guava, with grapefruit rind and summer fruits on the palate. SRP around $11.

Mohua Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2010 - Pretty, with floral overtones, delivering lemon curd, dried mango and pineapple punches of flavor. Appealing for its smooth texture and crisp acidity. Drink now. 41,000 cases imported. -MW, Wine Spectator, Score: 88

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Piccini Chianti 2009 DOCG

Here is a Chianti DOCG that is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot and 5% Ciliegiolo. This everyday Chianti is an absolute value for the $8.95 pricetag. Nicely balanced, bright, fruity, supple and very easy to drink besides being a good food wine. Aromas of cherry, slight earthiness and cedar with hints of tobacco, on the palate delicate tannins and a fresh style make this an inexpensive winner.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2001

This Christmas day I broke out a bottle I've been saving since receiving it as a birthday present a few years ago. Released sometime in 2007, this Brunello Riserva is just setting out on its path to maturity but will have probably reached its peak at the end of this decade. It's always so difficult to be patient when aging a good bottle of wine.
But that's okay, a Christmas dinner is as good a reason as any to pop the cork.
And I'm glad I did!

The color is a warm ruby with good clarity and intensity, aromas of a sexy mixture of forest floor, flowers, blackberry, licorice and a slight nuttiness. An attractive weave of texture with silky tannins while the finish is as comforting as a soft, warm blanket on a cold Christmas day. Beautiful. Elegant. Paired perfectly with Steak Au Poivre.

Wine Spectator gave the 2001 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 93 points... Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast both gave it a 92.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2008

This Riserva is made only from grapes grown on the Gabbiano Estate in the heart of Tuscany. Only the oldest and best Sangiovese vines on the property are used. Fermented in stainless steel tanks for 20 days, and for more extraction the wine was macerated on the skins for another 20, followed by aging in 50% new French oak for 16 to 18 months, and finally in bottle for 4 months.

Rich and intense ruby colors paint a picture of full body, texture and complexity. Dry and luscious with a blend of 95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot. Aromas of violets with flavors that ring of black licorice, tobacco, red cherries, cassis, plum and oak. The finish is a dream and so is the price at $23 SRP, with 14% alcohol.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wartalia "Kikoi" Aglianico 2010 DOC

Wartalia was founded in 2004 and is made up of fourteen independent farms with 50 hectares of vines located in the hills of the Telesina (or Calore) Valley and produces around 650 metric tons of grapes in several varieties - Aglianico, Falanghina, Fiano, Greco, Coda di Volpe, Malvasia and Sangiovese, plus Sannio DOC (AOC), Guardiola DOC and Beneventano IGT.

This find is a 100% Aglianico, aged briefly in wood then in bottle. Ruby red colors, medium intensity, clear appearance, with clean aromas of mature red fruit along with floral perfumes. The palate shows a dryness with medium acidity and tannins, spice with a vegetal hint, and good length on the finish. Reminds me of a raspberry pie. This is a bargain at about $11.

Guardia Sanframondi is a town and municipality in the Province of Benevento, Campania region, Italy, best known for the penitential rite held every seven years.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Macari Vineyards Merlot Reserve 2007

A beautiful showing from Macari Vineyards on Long Island's North Fork, 100% Merlot with medium body and dark violet colors, luscious aromas of plum and violets, while on the palate notes of umami, contrasted by raspberry candy, cherry, clove, spice, chocolate, and plum with lively tannins and vestiges of oak, followed by a very long and attractive finish.

About Macari Vineyards

Macari Vineyards, located on the North Fork of Eastern Long Island in Mattituck, is owned and operated by the Macari Family. The business is led by owners Joseph Macari Sr. and his wife, Katherine, and Joseph Macari Jr., who is at the helm of the winery with his wife, Alexandra. Though Macari Vineyards was established in 1995, the Macari Family has owned the 500 acre waterfront estate for nearly 50 years. In this time, they have been careful environmental stewards of the land. What were once potato fields and farmland has become a vineyard of 180 acres of vines with additional fields of compost, farmland, and a home to cows, goats, Sicilian donkeys and ducks.

Macari is on the cutting edge of viticulture and is dedicated to a more natural approach to winemaking. Joseph Macari, Jr. is recognized as a pioneer in the movement towards organic and sustainable farming on Long Island, employing principles of biodynamic farming since the vineyard’s first plantings. Extensive soil preparation, rich composts, careful cover cropping and a consideration to wildlife and terrain makes Macari's 180 planted acres stand out from the rest. Taking into account the health of the environment as a whole, and moving away from the harmful effects of pesticides to a more natural and meticulous caretaking of the soil and plants, ultimately yields premium wines.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Man of Numanthia

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner at Geoffrey Zakarian’s The Lambs Club in NYC with Estate Director Manuel Louzada, from Bodega Numanthia, to introduce three different vintages of Termes, Numanthia and Termanthia.

Born in Portugal, Louzada lived in Spain for ten years, where he developed a love for the sea as well as a more introspective way of looking at life. He studied agriculture, engineering, and agronomy and eventually returned to Portugal where he set to work making Port wine. In 1999 he moved to Argentina to make sparkling wines for Bodegas Chandon where the focus is on detail.

His three year plan, turned into nine, and he eventually moved to Numanthia in Spain in 2008. “Character and concentration are the trademarks of the Toro region wines, and we want to be truthful to soul of the wines,” notes an enthusiastic Louzada.

Numanthia was founded in 1998, and in 2006 the partners sold to Moet Hennessey. Some of the uniqueness of Toro wines is rooted in the fact that some of its vines are 60 to 200 years old.

I asked Manuel, how his experience with Port and Champagne influenced his winemaking…

“The influence of Port is about character -- it’s about power,” says Louzada. “It’s about trying to understand the massive strength of nature. When you taste Port wine for the first two years, I can assure you it’s not a very pleasant sensation, because of the alcohol, because of the amount of tannins, because of the fruitiness that seem overwhelming. What makes the big difference is the development of understanding of those powerful details.”

“Champagne on the other hand is the opposite. It’s how a single 1%, 2%, 3% of the most delicate wine makes such a big difference, so it’s about small details; it’s how the small percentages change the character of a wine. Blending it was a beautiful exercise, because when you taste base wines, whatever you have in thebase wine, good or bad, is going to be multiplied by a thousand because of the carbonic. So I had a lot of fun learning about, and making sparkling.”

“When blending Termanthia I had to choose between 22 or 23 barrels -- deciding which of the 20 I’m going to use-- there anything more detailed than that? You have to be able to figure out how to get to the picture you have in your head.”

Tinta de Toro

The Spaniards of the region call it Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo). A typical Tempranillo will usually display a full, muscular body and a viscosity with dark purple colors woven with aromas of black currants, violets, licorice and caramel. The bouquet may blend into a palate of plums and dark chocolate, all working to create a soft but supple wine with a long dusty finish... the better ones are a very nice balance of tannins & acidity.

A Quick Study of the 3 Vintages

The Termes 2007 was a warm vintage with elegant and delicate tones, while the 2008 Termanthia was a more traditional vintage with a beautiful combination of fresh fruitiness and tannic structure and concentration, with 2009 presenting yet another warm vintage concentration, highlighting extremely soft tannins. Louzada explains that some wines can be drinkable upon release but can be equally palatable in 30 years.

Tasting Notes and Pairings

Termes 2009

The first up is the Termes 2009... 100% hand harvested, 4 months in stainless steel tanks, then aged in French oak barrels for 14-16 months. (The 2008 was expressly fresh fruit, while the 2009 was slightly warmer vintage like 06, 03 with a level of intensity, and lots of character). Aromas of raspberry, strawberry, fruity, sweet lush tannins, lively vibrant fruit character. nice structure, toasted, cedar, layered juicy texture on palate. Paired beautifully with Beef Carpaccio with Piquillo Pepper, Egg and Jamon Serrano, delicate nuances, which rounds out the tannins. SRP $30

Numanthia 2007

Numanthia 2007, 100 year old vines, 18 months in French oak, more concentration, more complexity in the fruit, more aging, 100% new oak, a bit toastier and spicier, so you can feel the intensity of power and remarkable balance. On the palate, dark chocolate, cassis and spice. Paired with Veal Chop, Soubise, Summer Squash. SRP $60

Termanthia 2008

"Termanthia 2008 is a the expression of a single plot that is 120-140 year old vines, and explosion of fruit fresh cherries, like a bomb, complex so everything that we do has to be the most delicate winemaking technique to try to dominate that force, that strength of nature. Hand de-stemmed, crushed by foot, twice thru new barrels." Paired with Lamb Loin with Stuffed Piquillo Peppers and Eggplant. Can be aged for 30 years. SRP $200

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2008

The Castello di Gabbiano was founded in 1124 and... as the story goes, in the 12th century The Gabbiano Knight (or Cavaliere in Italian) protected these Tuscan Vineyards from foreign invaders.

The soil in the region is high in limestone, sandstone and clay and makes for intense and concentrated fruit. The Sangiovese grapes used were sourced from select estate vineyards and the 2008 vintage was an excellent one. The juice was aged in large French oak barrels for 12 months before bottling.

Clean and with medium weight, attractive husky aromas of vibrant ripe cherry and violets, with a hint of cocoa, followed by dry but complex flavors of plums, floral and spice notes, textured and a very nice balance of tannins and acidity. $14.