"The intersection where great wines meet reasonable prices"



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pinot Noir Round-up: Top-Notch Juice under $20







I've been tasting boat-loads of hedonistic delicious Pinot Noir's so far this year and thought it would be a great time, near the mid-point in the year to put-together a shake-n-bake list of my top ten favorites perfectly priced just under a Jackson [$20]. We all like to get a great deal and most of us like to drink great juice for prices that nearly seem too good to be true. After all great Pinot Noir under a Jackson, is no easy feat.

It's with that in mind, that I've put together mid-year round up of some of my newest Pinot Noir favorites.Ya know, I find it interesting that with all the many wines I've had the great pleasure reviewing so far this year, Pinot Noir wise, that Oregon Pinot is oddly absent from the review spotlight. I've tried a few under the $20 price point, but none of them really had that "wow" factor, the way these other wines I've put on this list below.

If you're any kind of Pinot Fanatic or just a casual Pinot Noir fan who became enamored over the grape after watching the movie "Sideways" you're most likely well aware that PN is known as the "Heartbreak Grape" especially to folks who produce what can only be described as bottled poetry. In a world filled with various types and styles of wine, it is a well known fact that the Pinot Noir grape is fussy, finicky, difficult and will not just grow anywhere [sound like a few of my old girl-friends]. Of all the grapes in world Pinot Noir is a variety characterized as being notoriously vulnerable to to problems like mold, frost, and disease and why? It's mostly due to the grape’s very thin skin, coupled together with the fact that it also can prove difficult for the winemaker in the vinification process and you have a very pricey proposition.

The reason I bring this up is because in order for the average Pinot Noir producer to go through all that effort with this grape, then bottle a great product and bring said wine to the market for under $20, while still making a profit is nearly a modern miracle. So you may not want to just sit idly by thinking these kind of deals on Pinot Noir will be around forever. The good news is that prices on some seriously good juice is still low, so I would stock up now, while the price is right. In this vein, I have put together a list of Pinot Noirs which in my opinion are drinking rather fabulously right now, will knock your socks-off, while not breaking the bank.

1. Paraiso 2008 Pinot Noir, SLH: I scored this wine 91 points. Fully flavored and balanced with firm acidity. Seducing aromas draw you in again and again, a winetastic experience. A wonderfully style driven Pinot Noir, that will pair with many types of food and is great on its own. Expressive aromas and enticing flavors await your purchase. Definitely worth the price of admission. Other Voices: The International Wine Review gave them 90 points. This wine sells for $18 in a few Costco here in California.

2. Belle Glos 2008 Pinot Noir Meiomi Sonoma Coast (Caymus): The next wine is a wonderful expression of Pinot Noir for a winetastically low price; which is the 2008 Meiomi. It's pronounced May-oh-mee and you can get this beauty at your local San Diego Costco. Not sure if any other Costco carries this wine, but if you happen to be shopping in San Diego and are looking for a inexpensive well built Pinot Noir, folks this it. It definitely won't break the bank, but it will feel like you're robbing the bank. Expressive baking spices, ripe fruit aromas abound and a silky mouth-feel. I immediately scored this wonderful wine 90 points. Why the high score, good question, because this wine tastes like it cost way more than the price tag of $17 making the QPR is off the charts.

3. Byron PN SMV 2008: I opened this one just the other night, paired against some seared Ahi and mushroom risotto, in a word winetastic. A huge plume of rich cherry, strawberry and plum aromas streaming from the the glass, accented by nuances of nutmeg, pepper, smoke, and a dusting of vanilla. The wine’s perfectly poised fruit to acid balance makes this wine incredibly food-friendly. My palate was struck by wave after wave of a rich cherry and raspberry pie filling, wrapped around the smokey vanilla-tinged wonderfully integrated oak, with a small dose of rich earthiness. The mouth feel is silky, the brilliant finish is long and sumptuous. This wine is drinking FAB, right now and will only get better over the next few years. A real stunner, I gave this wine 93 points and it sells for $18 most places or $26 through the tasting room. This wine is widely distributed here in California, score as many as you can, a run don't walk recommendation.

4. Taz 2008 Pinot Noir: Another wonderful wine from Santa Barbara County. With so much hoopla around RRV PN it can be easy to forget about the wonderful expressions of Pinot Noir, coming from this area. In the glass you'll find a wonderful cranberry colored core, floral and baking spice aromas swirling about, leaning toward the strawberry end of the flavor spectrum. On the plate a well-balanced attack of baking spices, red berry fruits and finish is plush. I scored this wine 91 points. Just a fantastic wine from the SBC region. Taz really delivers a consistent wine tasting experience. Where to Purchase: This wine sells at  most places as low as $18 at most online stores. I purchased mine at the San Diego Wine Company on Miramar Road.

5. Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir 2009: Woo-hoo, this wine hit it out of the freaking park, this is seriously great juice for the price. After the first pour, a shimmering dark crimson colored core. Getting my fat half-Irish nose down into the glass [not an easy feat] a palette of aromas await, black cherry, raspberry, cola and baking spices all inviting the first sip. Some other reviewers were wine-ing about the 14% abv saying that it was most likely much higher, but after my first long slurp, I found this wine is made in an immediately appealing and approachable style that will impress many with its power and finesse of flavors sporting a balanced ABV. A raft of flavors coming your way, cherries, raspberries, light touch of blue-berries sweet vanilla, tobacco, baking spices and fat-slap of bacon fat, wrapped around some mushroom risotto like nuances, the mouth feel is dry, silky and the finish is plump. What the hell are you waiting for? Get yourself a case of this wine, dressed to impress and will be asked on a second and third date. It sells for a SRP of $20 and can be found at a few online purveyors of fine wine and spirits here. You could also most like have Bevmo order for you as they carry all the other Veramonte wines except this bottle. I gave this wine a score of 92 flavor filled points, enjoy.

6. Valdivieso Reserve Pinot Noir 2009: In the glass a rich looking strawberry colored core and dancing wine-diamonds [tartaric acid] in the bottom of my glass. Meaning if you happen to grab some of this vino, you have bought flawless wine, just not an aesthetically flawless wine, which is no big deal. On the nose a wonderful perfume of dried strawberries, rich earth and raspberry. After the first splash down, this immediately appealing Pinot is soft but lush, presenting a raft of vanilla, cinnamon and sandal wood flavors, with a healthy splash of raspberry and strawberry pie filling leading to the plush finish. You can find this wines selling in most places for right around $17 or under. Older vintages are sold at Wine Zap and wine-searcher reveals it's sold in a number of British online wine stores. I gave it a score of 90 points, a superb Pinot Noir for the price, look-out RRV, Chile will have you on the run with these prices and high quality.

7. Rodney Strong Estate Pinot Noir 2009: This wine is a steal under $15 and still a fantastic bargain under $20. I found this wine to have a garnet colored core. The first whiff, reminded me sweet baking spices, strawberries and rose petals. On palate a nice attack of dusty-spices, sandalwood, a silky mouth-feel, sweet vanilla and baked strawberries, mouthwatering acidity, leading to the plush finish. Drink now and drink often, I gave this wine a score of 89 points, with a hearty buy recommendation.
 
Makes shopping for wine just a little bit easier when you have a nice list to head out to the wine store and stock up on a few palate pleasing favorites. If you have a fave Pinot Noir, under twenty dollars that you feel that I've overlooked, please by all means let me know. I would be glad to pick one up, give it a swirl and throw it in the review spotlight, if it does of course have that "wow" factor. Until next time folks sip long and prosper, cheers!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wines of Chile: Four Cool Climate Syrah's

Now it's time to move the review spot-light onto the four cool-climate Syrah's that were part of the wonderful Wines of Chile tasting. So no need to hop in the wine-wagon this time as we already on location, with the exception of a few small road-trips to Limari, Leyda, Lolol Valley's. I thought it was important to separate the these reviews of these wine into two-parts simply because Syrah and Pinot Noir are as different as night and day. I thought each varietal deserved it's own day in the review spot-light.

I threw the phrase into the title of this post, about cool-climate Syrah, but thinking what does that really mean? A good question and one I will try to answer quickly without veering into so much cork-dorkiness that I lose you two seconds past the first paragraph [as if anyone reads that far anyway]. That said,  I think it's important and hopefully helpful to draw a line of distinction between these two styles of Syrah. I hope this will be helpful in getting a better idea what you're getting your palate into, before you uncork that next bottle. If you are one of those cork-dorks in audience who knows exactly where I'm going with this, please feel free to skip this little intro into the stylistic differences between warm and cool climate Syrah [Shiraz]. Everyone, please sit back, buckle-up it's time to take a spin in the wine-wagon to grab the 411 on Cool-Climate Syrah, before we jump into the individual reviews.

Some grape varieties work really well in certain climates, like Pinot Noir does quite fabulously in cool climates and Zinfandel craves the warm hot climates and has made itself at home in California. However, Syrah is a different animal altogether and will work wonderfully in either climate, however stylistically with very different results. I wouldn't say one is that much better than the other, they are just different, while being nearly the same if that makes sense [a bit esoteric I know].

When you think of warm-climate Syrah, places like Australia's Barossa Valley [shiraz] should come to mind and here in the US, places like Washington's Red Mountain AVA or even France's Southern Rhone are good examples of warm climate Syrah and the usual suspects [flavor profiles] show up. What you will often find as a rule, are jammy [baked] flavors of blueberry, raspberry and dark-cherry, because many wines produced further inland tend to be bigger, fatter, richer and often times as result higher ABV. It also tends to be a style which many consumers have grown accustom to drinking, thanks to many of the marsupial labeled wines that have shown up on American shores. While you may not recognize the flavors, you can definitely pick-up the fruit forward tendencies of warm climate Syrah, a much riper and sometimes far less finesse, style of wine.

Now on the cooler side of equation, cool-climate Syrahs typically by way of contrast are far more restrained, but not in the case of these Syrahs I encountered from Chile. Rounding up the usual suspects [profiles], you'll find that cool climate Syrah are very aromatic, leaning toward classical floral notes like lavender or violet, smoked meats, leather and tobacco. Common tastes and flavors often include black fruit, cherries, ripe blackberries and plums; white pepper and high-tone spices are all common characteristics. Many would say that overall, it's a far less power and much more elegant style. However, it's a style that takes some getting used to, especially for folks who are not too familiar with tasting wines from the vineyards from the northern Rhone's classic cool climate area the Cote Rotie.

Now that we have a better idea of the two stylistic differences, it's time to jump into the review of the four cool-climate Syrahs from the Wines of Chile tasting, which I thought showed really well and came dressed to impress, however there was one member of this foursome that won't be asked back for a second interview. While the other three have a great chance at landing the job.

1. Tamaya Reserva Syrah 2009: This wine is from the Limari Valley, an interesting blend with Syrah leading the way at 97% and the balance filled with a splash of Viognier. In the glass an deep, dark brooding purple colored core. Floating up from the glass after the first swirl, aromas of lavender, blue berry, leathery, amidst some peppery notes. After the first splash down, I'm treated to some highly polished tannins, pure silk. A flavor burst of licorice, blueberry, cherry, white-pepper, a bit of wet earth and tobacco all combined to give a very generous mouthfeel that I felt was a bit short in the finish, but would make for a wonderful foodie type wine, sure to pair easily with many different types of foods. I gave this wine a score of 89 points and it sells for a SRP of $18, representing very good QPR for a wine of this quality.

2. Loma Larga  Syrah 2006: This wine is from Chile's Casablanca Valley, a 100% Syrah which was not fined or filtered, so decanting is highly recommended through a screen. But don't let that bit of sway you one bit from this fantastic example of a cool climate Syrah. It definitely was my favorite, as I gave it a solid 92 point score and highly recommend it to you. In the glass a deeply crimson colored core, deeply staining legs against the glass. After first swirl, blueberry, licorice and meaty aromas combine to perfume the air above the glass preparing you for the coming attractions. The first sip is a head-back wow, you'll find this wine located on the drink now and drink often aisle, nice heft and the tannins are polished, leading to a lengthy finish. Gamey, herbal and earthy complexity help you get your head around the blueberry and black berry fruit that dominates the mid-palate, while the striking acidity keeps the wine in complete balance for the total package. Selling for a SRP of $29, it's great juice for this price point, it really over delivers and came dressed to impress.

3. Undurraga T.H. Syrah 2009: This "Terroir Hunter" wine hails from the Leyda Valley, produced by one of Chile's oldest wineries. In the glass you'll find the core leaning toward purple. On the nose compact ripe blueberry and black-berry fruit, with just a touch of olive aromas leaps from the glass. Really nice mouth-feel, plush and giving, balanced acidity, polished blueberry and black-berry and floral flavors are drawn from the nose, leading to a nicely penetrating finish, with touches of chocolate and expresso rounding out the experience. An extremely well done wine, with plenty to offer for the $25 price of admission. I gave this wine a score of 90 points, highly recommended.

4. 2009 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Syrah: This wine hails from the Lolol Valley and weighs in at 14.5% ABV, a bit heavier than other Syrahs. In the glass a dark purple colored core. A screw-cap closure that yielded an interesting, yet odd nose of a nearly undefinable gaminess and office furniture aromas, amidst some mixed purple fruits and spices. After the first splash down, herbal, spicy Syrah like characters and a bit of funk. The fruit is light and suggests licorice and blackberries, rough-tannins, the spice and heat quickly fades out the flash of fruit, pretty tightly wound, leading to the rough and short finish. I scored this wine 85 points and it sells most places for $15, a bit of a dissappoint after my experience with the other three Syrahs.

Full Disclosure: These wines reviewed above were sent as press samples.

I hope you will take the opportunity to search-out these wines for yourself, give them a swirl, as they are deserving of a place in your cellar and your glass. Many of these wines can be found using wine-searcher and I've heard that all of these wines have nation-wide distribution. I really enjoyed all the wines very much and obviously liked a few more than the others. I hope that info on the stylistic differences of Syrah was helpful, until next time sip long and prosper cheers everyone!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chile Uncorked: Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir

Here's looking at you, Kid! 

This is the review that I've been jonesing to tell you about. But my honey-do list sadly beckoned. So suffice it to say I was busy-boy getting some much needed landscaping work done. Now that I'm caught up, it's time to get some reviews written. I've been excited to write this review for the longest time, about the wonderful Wines of Chile live Twitter Blogger tasting that I participated in about three weeks ago. I know many of my colleagues have already posted their reviews and I hope you will give their words a swirl as well.

I like to approach my reviews a little differently than most other wine-blogs, so I hope you will enjoy the ride today. Overall, the general consensus of everyone who participated in this extremely well done live multi-media presentation, was that wines tasted were good to excellent and that the winemaker interaction during the live twitter event was engaging and enthusiastic.

Today's review will revolve around the the four Pinot Noir's that I tasted during the Wines of Chile twitter live-tasting and the next review will revolve around the four Syrahs. So hop into the wine-wagon with me as we take a spin down the vino super-highway and head down to South America, to a place that I believe will become the "new" Pinot Noir hotspot in the New World. But more, specifically all the Pinot Noir's I will be reviewing today are from Casablanca [no, not Morocco] and like Bogey said to Bergman in a movie of the same title, "Here's looking at you kid" pinot-heaven awaits.

A few interesting facts about our destination, the wines of Chile are free from the "evils" of Phylloxera [small yellow vine-killing aphids] which has never infested Chilean vines, even though it's rampant in nearby Mendoza, only a few dozen miles over Chile's first line of defense the mighty Andes mountain range. 

This fact, together with Chile's Atacama Desert, the Pacific Ocean and flood irrigation, it's often claimed these natural barriers act as unofficial border guards and if you couple that with their stringent two year quarantine for imported plant material, you have what Spanish settlers knew over four hundred years ago a winemakers paradise in the making. This is an important, but little known fact in the ability to achieve what I believe are even higher quality wines, because each vine is grown on its own rootstock and does not need to be grafted.

The second, important fact about the rise of the Chilean Wine Scene as I like to call it, is that people of Chile in 1989 finally became a stable political entity, yep the folks in Chile reverted to democracy with a smattering of [evil] capitalism thrown in for good measure, which is in full bloom today. 

As a result, the wakening of a "quality" wine producing behemoth which is welcoming of foreign investment and has beckoned the wine swirling masses here in the US and elsewhere to consume well-made, great tasting wine that thankfully still lacks the Napa and Bordeaux sticker shocks.

Now those two facts alone are not the whole answer to Chile's recent success on the New World wine scene, but they are important building blocks of insight into the Chilean wine scene. If this small introduction has wet your appetite in some small way I would you encourage you to find our more at the very informative Wines of Chile website. 

So it looks like we've arrived at our destination, so hop out and grab yourself a splash of these wonderful wines. It's time to dig into the reviews and bust out a few of awful tasting notes. In today's wine review; a spotlight on four very different styles of Pinot Noir, one was the big-boy in the room in terms of its price and its overall heft on the palate.

1. 2009 Valdivieso Pinot Noir Reserva: In the glass a rich looking strawberry colored core and dancing wine-diamonds [tartaric acid] in the bottom of my glass. Meaning if you happen to grab some of this vino, you have bought flawless wine, just not an aesthetically flawless wine, which is no big deal. On the nose a wonderful perfume of dried strawberries, rich earth and raspberry. After the first splash down, this immediately appealing Pinot is soft but lush, presenting a raft of vanilla, cinnamon and sandalwood flavors, with a healthy splash of raspberry and strawberry pie filling leading to the plush finish.  

You can find this wines selling in most places for right around $17 or under. Older vintages are sold at Wine Zap and wine-searcher reveals it's sold in a number of British online wine stores. I gave it a score of 90 points, a superb Pinot Noir for the price, look-out RRV, Chile will have you on the run with these prices and high quality.

2. Vina Casablanca Nimbus Estate PN 2009: In the glass more of a garnet, leaning toward ruby colored core. The nose was mostly muted but there was wafts of forest floor and minerality. After the first big slurp, I found the acidity to be bright and crisp, but the flavor profile was somewhat underwhelming, cherries, raspberry and sandalwood wrapped around freshly plucked chunky mushrooms, leading to the dry, silky but mostly subdued finish. Not sure went wrong with this bottle, unless restrained was the style of wine they were attempting to produce. 

So, sorry to say this wine was not dressed to impress and I won't be asking it back for a second interview. I gave this wine a score of 82 points and is selling for a SRP of $20. With so much great juice out there, why bother with what with wine my wife likes to refer to as, "just okay" [a phrase I hear often, when I cook].

3. Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir 2009: Woo-hoo, this wine hit it out of the freaking park, this is seriously great juice for the price. After the first pour, a shimmering dark crimson colored core. Getting my fat half-Irish nose down into the glass [not an easy feat] a palette of aromas await, black cherry, raspberry, cola and baking spices all inviting the first sip. 

Some other reviewers were wine-ing about the 14% abv saying that it was most likely much higher, but after my first long slurp I found this wine is made in an immediately appealing and approachable style that will impress many with its power and finesse of flavors sporting a balanced ABV.  

A raft of flavors coming your way, cherries, raspberries, light touch of blue-berries sweet vanilla, tobacco, baking spices and fat-slap of bacon fat, wrapped around some mushroom risotto like nuances, the mouth feel is dry, silky and the finish is plump. 

What the hell are you waiting for? Get yourself a case of this wine, dressed to impress and will be asked on a second and third date. It sells for a SRP of $20 and can be found at a few online purveyors of fine wine and spirits here. You could also most like have Bevmo order for you as they carry all the other Veramonte wines except this bottle. I gave this wine a score of 92 flavor filled points, enjoy.

4. Cono Sur, Ocio Pinot Noir 2008: Whoa, like I said earlier this wine was the big-boy in the room, made in a take-no-prisoners style. This is the kind of Pinot Noir that says, "if you can't hang with the big dogs, you better get back on the porch" to any other poser that may want to jump in the ring. In the glass, a massive nearly opaque dark ruby colored core. The nose shouts at you with a massive wave of dark cherry, plum and Indian spices. After the first slurp, whoa I was slapped with a sledgehammer of rich, full bodied, plump Pinot Noir flavors, plum, dark-cherry, smoky sandalwood, rhubarb, mongo bacon fat and chunks of rich earth and sauteed-mushroom. 

A nice tannin-acid balance that would indicate, a few more years of bottle aging would only improve how it's tasting now. Regarding the finish, Mr. James Molesworth over at the Wine Speculator gave this wine 91 point and had this to say about the finish, "The lengthy finish is nicely focused". 

Dude really? Uh puh-lease nicely focused does not even come close to describing the sumptuously long and caressing finish I experienced. I gave this wine 94 points, but at its $65 price point of it won't be in most folks everyday drinker category, sad to say. Nonetheless it's a thrill-ride of pinot-proportions. This wine can be found at a few online purveyors and I would highly recommend giving it a swirl.

Full Disclosure: These wines were sent as press samples for the review process.

That's all I have for you in this review, but please stay tuned as next time we'll delve right into a review of four wonderful Syrahs from Chile. If your not a fan of Syrah, you will be after giving these wine a swirl. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Under the Iberian Sun: Bodega Montecillo Crianza 2007

Woo, it has been a few days since my last post and I've really missed having the opportunity to share with you all the delightful wines that I've encountered over the past couple of weeks. So here it goes, you can expect to see a number of reviews over the next couple of days to help me get caught up and to help you get some great buy recommendations.

Hop on in, buckle up and sit back, it's time to take a quick 24 hour trip [for west-coasters] over to the Iberian peninsula and grab some vino from the upper reaches of Rioja.

A place guarded by mountains on all three sides, the region itself takes its ancestral name from a tributary of the Ebro, called the Rio Oja. There has been vineyard activity here since the times of Roman occupation [talk about your ancient vines], but it was during the French Phylloxera crisis that many grape growers and winemakers from France settled into northern Spain and brought with them many of the similar wine making practices we see in France today [like knowing a wine by its region and not its varietal].

The Rioja region is a lot different than what you may be use to here in U.S. wine-country, because much of the regions small growers sell their grapes to merchants or co-operative cellars. The vast majority [75%] of the vino produced in this region is red wine and is produced primarily from the Tempranillo grape. While some of the better wines will be composed of a blend of small amounts of Garnacha and Mazuelo. Speaking of blending, many wines labeled Rioja which you encounter on wine store shelves will be a blend of one of the Rioja's sub-regions, the Alavesa, Alta and Baja and the capital is La Rioja.

The styles of wine can really run the gamut in Rioja, between how long they are aged, traditional vs. modern, type of oak and a majority of the prices points will yield many wonderful bargains as well. If that little intro has wet your appetite to know more about this sparkling gem on the Spanish wine scene and you are looking for a little more information on the area, I found a helpful website, which will give you a little more depth on the subject, just click here.

Today, there are two wines in the "review" spotlight and both are from Bodegas Montecillo one is their 2007 Crianza [which I really liked] and the other was the 2003 Reserva [more on the austere side].

Montecillo 2007 Crianza: A 100% Tempranillo that spent 12 months in newer French-Oak [a departure from American Oak] and another 12 months in bottle before release. A ruby red core, showing its modern flair right away, with far less of the traditional  meaty aromas and flavors, you instead are immediately enveloped by soft tannins, aromas of vanilla and strawberries smeared over fresh toast, the finish is mostly in the mid-palate, but it's chock-full of easy drinking flavors which will meld effortlessly with a variety of menu options. So, you have a great food wine that really delivers for a price that's right. I gave this wine of a score of 88 points. Again another wine with great QPR [selling for $12] and it has wide availability.

Other Voices: I would give it an 88 or so. There’s lots of value in this bottle. ~ Canadian Wineguy

Montecillo 2003 Reserva: A wine that spent 18 months in untoasted French-Oak barriques and 12 months in the bottle before release. In  the glass a warm brick-ish/ruby colored core and slight browning at the rim, showing its age. Even after and hour of decanting this wine, I was hit on the nose with some meaty, earthy, floral and just a hint of strawberry aromas. After the first sip, ooh austerity hit me like a ton bricks.
Mostly plummy, woody, smoky, odd meaty flavors, like picking up a nearly ripe plum, that still had sod attached and giving it a go. This wine was not approachable on any level and I frankly cannot recommend it to you.  The finish was short and the tannins were tight as a drum. I scored this wine 75 points. It sells for about $18 most places.

Other Voices: I think that maybe some how I must have got a different bottle of this same vintage as a few other reviewers had quite a different experience with this wine than I did.  The Good Wineguru had this to say regarding this wine, "I definitely recommend this wine both because of it being a good pairing, and for it being a good price. If you can’t find the wine near you, follow this link and have it shipped directly to you". Sorry bud, but I don't agree with any of that, I simply cannot recommend giving this wine a swirl.

Okay that is all for today, please stay tuned as next time we are going to South America, for a taste of the winetastic values coming out of Chile. This wines are going to rock your world, light up your palate and keep your wallet fat. So until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

2008 Foppiano Petite Sirah meets an American Classic

I hope you enjoyed that fun side trip to Tuscany and will seek out a few Super Tuscan's the next time you're shopping for vino, which in my mind are fantastic food pairing champions.

Speaking of food pairing the wine I'm about to introduce you to has an easy drinking wow factor. Join me as I take another spin in the wine-wagon for a trip to the wonderful Sonoma Valley and the Russian River.

Another fantastic wine from my friends at Foppiano Vineyards in Sonoma, who produced what is believed to be uncommon varietal for this area, an Russian River Valley Petite Sirah. If you are up for an visit, their tasting room is easily located on Old Redwood Highway, just south of the charming town of Healdsburg and really just down the road from "J" and Rodney Strong [god if you love Cab-Sauv as much as I do, give them swirl].

The American classic met its match here in Arizona, as I was enjoying a bit of relaxation at the Botanical Gardens, hiking the rocky, petrified-wood lined mountains and hitting the local water park. What is that American classic, well it was none-the-other than home-style meatloaf, a mouth watering blend of beef, pork and vegetables, which is slow-baked and topped with a sweet tomato compote, which really brought the dish altogether. A wonderful take out order I picked up from the huge portion house, Claim Jumper.

After a full day of water-parking and swimming a few laps in the Arizona Grand Resorts huge pool, I was jonesing for some down-home styled comfort food and this dish really delivered, sided with home-made style mash and some demi-glace slow roasted carrots and crisp zucchini. To say I was in hog heaven, would be an under-statement and paired with the Foppiano Petite Sirah it was the master stroke. I could not rave enough about how utterly winetastic this juice was, right out of the gate, no decanting, Vinturi's or Soiree's needed. Because right after the cork was popped, this wine put on a flavor and finesse clinic.

Swirly, Sniff and Slurp: This wine really travels well, as it accompanied my wife and I, on our Arizona road trip and not even a bit of bottle shock, from transport. Right after uncorking and pouring myself a few ounces, whoa a very dark, virtually opaque ruby colored core. The aromas from the glass were like a fragrant perfume, layers of nutmeg, Indian spices and vanilla and black licorice. On the palate expressive red and dark fruits, hints of toasty oak, molten licorice, bursting with blueberry and dark cherry flavors, laying on a bed of silky tannins and mouth watering acidity that lead to a pleasing albeit short finish. I was very sad, when the last drop had left my glass and you will be as well if you don't grab yourself a case of this delicious budget-friendly vino, that is as food friendly of a wine as you will find any where. Please don't doubt me, this is fantastic juice.

Special Handling: I thought it was interesting to note, that perhaps their winemakers handling of this wine is what really made the difference, in this PS finely honed and well integrated tannins. Because while many winemakers treat Petite Sirah like Cabernet Sauvignon embracing hard-edged tannins, meant for longer aging. Foppiano's winemaker, Natalie West prefers gentle-handling of her Estate Petite Sirah and goes as far as to treat it like her Pinot Noir [which I found very good]. Their PS experiences a gentle press [PS, I luv you] and is fermented in open top fermenters with punch-downs [for color extraction] three times a day. I also found the oak regiment to be very interesting, a whopping 70% was neutral oak and only 25% new french oak 5% new Hungarian oak. An interesting and refreshing approach to PS, definitely delivered the style of wine she was aiming to make. Kudos to you Natalie!

Other Voices: The folks over at the Blog Wine Cellar had this to say about the Foppiano PS, "Perhaps with a few years in bottle this wine will become even more balanced and I would guess that the bouquet will only get better over the years. Killer wine fore the price ($18-20) 89+ points" They detected a bit of heat from the 15% plus ABV, I didn't however and if it's a concern an hour of decanting could rectify the issue nicely.

What's the Score: The QPR [quality price ratio] is through the roof and a mere 89 points will not do this wine justice, so I'm giving this wine a score of 91 points and listing it as a "Best-Buy" recommendation.

Price and Purchase: This wine can be found at many locations online selling for under $15 and of course it can be purchased directly from the winery for just a bit more. With a little over six thousand cases produced, you have my drink now and drink often recommendation as this wine represents the ideal everyday drinker type of vino. It will improve with more bottle age, but why wait when it's drinking so fabulously right now.

That's is all I got for you today folks, please do yourself a favor and grab some of this very well made Petit Sirah that is smooth as silk, easy on the eyes and the wallet.  Until, next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Full Disclosure: This wine was sent as a sample for the review process.
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