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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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In South Africa Female Winemakers Help Lead the Charge

In South Africa Female Winemakers Help Lead the Charge

It’s been roughly 20 years’ time since South Africa became part of the Global Wine Community once again. In those two decades the quality of wines has increased and there have been great strides in the South African Wine Industry. Among the many other things that have changed, the number of Women winemakers has increased. And while the increase in diversity alone is cause for celebration that’s just a sliver of what’s happening.

Two New Releases from Sonoma County's Anaba Wines

Two New Releases from Sonoma County's Anaba Wines

Anaba Wines is a small Sonoma County producer that you should get to know if you don’t already. Their portfolio includes a host of really cool wines...

Vallformosa Cavas - Classic Brut (NV) / Origen Brut Rosado

_Rose_Bottle_2What comes to mind when I mention Spain; Rioja perhaps? And when I bring up Sparkling Wine, Champagne or Prosecco? There’s a lot more to Spain than Rioja and much more in the category of Sparking Wine. Most every wine growing country has a Sparkling Wine tradition of some kind. Spain has an excellent one with a long history making Cava. I recently tasted the wines of Vallformosa at Corkbuzz Wine Studio in Manhattan. Corkbuzz is a terrific place to attend a wine event. The space is welcoming, the servers super helpful and the food absolutely delicious. We went through 4 courses of small bites paired with Different Cava’s and was a place I plan to return to so I can taste more of their food and dive into their excellent wine list. Vallformosa is currently in it’s 5th generation making Cava. We tasted through a number of their current releases, here’s a look at the two that stood out the most for me.

The Vallformosa Classic Brut (NV) was produced from fruit sourced in the Cava D.O. of Penedes Spain. This offering blends together Xarel-lo (40%), Macabeo (30%), and Parallada (30%). Primary fermentation took place in stainless steel followed by secondary fermentation in bottle using the traditional method. Aging took place over a year. 12,000 cases of this Cava were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $16.99. Apple and toasted almond aromas are apparent on the nose of this Cava. The palate shows off continued orchard fruit in the form of green apple, wisps of lemon zest and sufficient acidity to think keeps a little zippy. The fruit flavors are joined by a gentle kiss of crème fraiche on the finish which has good length. This is a refreshing wine that is delicious on its own and with food. It’s a Classic Brut in style and also a classic example of Cava.

The Vallformosa Origen Brut Rosado was produced from fruit sourced in the Cava D.O. of Penedes Spain. This selection is a blend of Garnacha (90%) and Monastrell. Primary fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel; Secondary fermentation followed in bottle using the traditional method. Aging took place over 12 months. 150,000 6 bottle cases were produced and this wine has a suggested retail price of $19.99. Bright berry aromas leap from the nose of this Rosado. The palate is intense and fruity with depth and layers to spare. Cherry, raspberry and subtle bits of strawberry are all present. These flavors all carry through the persistent finish, along with a nice dollop of creaminess and pepper spice. This Cava paired well with the array of different foods that Corkbuzz Wine Studio had laid in front of us, but it was particularly inspired alongside pork belly.

If you find yourself in Manhattan, Corkbuzz Wine Studio is a spot you’ll want to check out, they offer a lot and they do it quite well. They’re a wine bar, but really so much more than that title implies. When you’re looking for Sparkling Wine to pair with your meal or celebrate an occasion the Cava’s from Vallformosa are ones you should consider. They’re well priced and offer excellent value for the quality they offer. The wines above each pair well with food, but the Rosado in particular is a stunning match with a truly wide array of flavors and textures. It would be an excellent choice to serve at Thanksgiving as it would undoubtedly marry well with the myriad of flavors found on that Holiday’s typically diverse table.

Domaines Paul Mas - 2011 Estate Pinot Noir / 2011 Estate Malbec / Chateau Paul Mas 2011 Clos de Savignac

European wine can be intimidating to wine drinkers for a variety of reasons. Those with an interest in wine but who aren't total geeks about it don’t necessarily know the nuances of labeling and what might be in a particular bottle due to it generally listing region as opposed to varietal content. Stylistically many old world wines are often subtler than their new world counterparts and it can take time for palates to come around to the layered charms of those often elegant offerings. In contrast to all of that Domaines Paul Mas from the Languedoc region of France has some releases that are labeled in such a way that even the budding wine lover can easily discern contents. Additionally they are making wines that bridge the gap in style between the old and new worlds. Here’s a look at three of their current releases. The Paul Mas 2011 Estate Pinot Noir is a single vineyard effort. All of the fruit for this wine came from their St. Hilaire Vineyard located in the Languedoc Region. This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. After maceration the fruit was fermented in a temperature controlled environment for approximately 9 days. Aging took place over 6 months in stainless steel, followed by 2 months in bottle prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $14. Aromas of Strawberry and red cherry fill the nose of this Pinot Noir along with secondary characteristics such as mushroom. Those red fruit characteristics carry through the palate which is towards the more substantial side for Pinot Noir. Minerals, spice and earth are all in strong evidence on the finish which has good length. Medium tannins and zippy acidity lend to a nice backbone and structure here. This is a Pinot from the old world that shows off new world flavors while still being proportionate.

The Paul Mas 2011 Estate Malbec is a single vineyard wine. All of the fruit for this selection was sourced at the Gardemiel Vineyard. This is a 100% varietal offering. This wine is available throughout the country and has a suggested retail price of $14. This Malbec has a really lifted nose with super expressive aromatics. Floral characteristics and deep, dark plum are both part of the equation. The palate is fruit driven but elegant and quite proportionate. Dark fruit flavors abound and are joined by a copious amount of spice. The finish is generous and velvety in nature with continued lush fruits and bits of earth as well. Firm acidity keeps things in check here. Soft tannins help this go down easy. This is a very expressive example of Malbec loaded with layers of fruit. This wine will pair well with roasted meats and hard cheeses to name a few good partners.

The Chateau Paul Mas 2011 Clos de Savignac was produced from fruit sourced at a single vineyard within Languedoc. This offering blends together Mourvèdre (50%), Syrah (30%), and Grenache (20%). This selection has a suggested retail price of $27. Aromas of violets and white pepper lead the nose of this blend. Blackberry and blueberry play key roles on the palate with black raspberry present as well. Black cherry and rhubarb characteristics emerge on the finish along with leather, espresso and baker’s chocolate. Firm, chewy tannins and acidity are present here. This blend of three classic varieties has substantial depth of palate and generous length and overall complexity for its price point. In its youth this wine will pair best with substantial foods.

This is a distinct trio of wines from a couple of different tiers in the Domaines Paul Mas line that shares some similarities. Each of the wines is balanced and proportionate. These are grapes that have thrived in France for years but the style here tilts towards the new world while not quite tipping all the way over. They’re eminently drinkable, food friendly and well priced for the quality they represent. Both the Pinot Noir and the Malbec are delicious now and will drink well for the next several years. The Clos de Savignac is a touch on the young side right now. Decanting it for an hour or so is recommended for immediate consumption. However patience will be rewarded. Lay it down for 5 or so years and it will be even more expressive and lovely. These wines are well worth seeking out. In particular if you’re drinking a lot of new world wines and are looking for a bridge back to the old world, these will get you there rather deliciously.

Hecht & Bannier - Côtes de Provence 2012 Rosé / 2009 Bandol

Hecht & Bannier was founded in 2002 by Gregory Hecht and Francois Bannier. They set themselves up in the style of traditional French Negociants with a goal of creating reference point releases in each region they produce wines from. The latest additions to their portfolio are a couple of wines from Provence. Here’s a look at them. The Hecht & Bannier Côtes de Provence 2012 Rosé was produced from a blend of Grenache (45%), Cinsault (40%) and Syrah (15%). The grapes utilized were sourced at a variety of vineyards, some in the foothills of Montagne Sainte-Victorie and others high altitude vineyards of Haute-Provence. The fruit was picked overnight during cooler hours to assure the preservation of freshness. This wine has a suggested retail price of $18. The light salmon hue of this offering is both beautiful and immediately striking. Engaging floral characteristics emerge from the nose. The palate is fruity, spice, dry, lithe and absolutely lovely. Cherry, strawberry, bits of orange zest and white pepper are all in play from the first sip through the above average finish. This wine goes down easily and it also has the depth and complexity to keep things interesting. It’s really a super appealing wine that you’re going to want to buy a few bottles of as they disappear quick once they’re open.

The Hecht & Bannier 2009 Bandol was produced from a blend of Mourvèdre (80%), Grenache (10%) and Cinsault (10%). After harvesting and fermentation the wine spent 20 months aging in large oak foudre; an additional six months in cement vats followed prior to bottling. This red blend has a suggested retail price of $38. Blackberry, toast and vanilla bean aromas fill the nose of this 2009 red blend. The palate is big and burly, loaded with brawny red and black fruit flavors like blueberry and rhubarb. Spices such as nutmeg and black pepper are present as well as an undercurrent of minerals. Espresso notes and bits of baker’s chocolate emerge on the finish which has excellent length. Leathery tannins and firm acidity are part of this wine’s solid structure. This will pair well with full flavored foods. For best results decent this offering for about 90 minutes so it can express all of its charms.

These wines from Hecht & Bannier represent both solid values which provide plenty of drinking pleasure. Equally as important they’re also fine and genuine representatives of Provence.

Drink Pink: A Quartet of Tasty Rosé’s Perfectly Suited for Summer !!

Rosé is one of the things in the wine world that I most enjoy about summer. Theoretically they taste just as good in cooler months. However to my lips, when the temperature rises, well made Rosé is even more delicious and tempting. Part of their appeal is their versatility with food. Their refreshing nature and the fact that they feature some of the characteristics of both red and white wines all lend to what makes them cherished by many wine lovers. Today I’ll look at a quartet of current Rosés from California producers. First up is the Pedroncelli 2011 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel. This Rosé is produced from fruit sourced in the winery’s home appellation of Dry Creek Valley. It’s a 100% varietal wine. Pedroncelli has been making Rosé since the 1950’s. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This wine saw no oak treatment. Just fewer than 1,000 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry emerge from the welcoming nose of this Rosé. Cherry flavors dominate the palate along with hints of white pepper. Vanilla, and continuing juicy red fruit flavors continue on the crisp and refreshing finish. This a lovely dry Rosé of Zinfandel with some perceived sweetness from all the engaging fruit flavors. This is an excellent choice for a picnic.

Next up is Clayhouse Wines 2011 Adobe Pink. This wine was produced from fruit sourced at the winery’s Red Cedar Vineyard located at the outskirts of Paso Robles. It’s a blend of Mourvedre (38%), Grenache Noir (37%), and Syrah (25%). Harvesting, crushing and processing of the grapes was handled as white varietals would be. Following fermentation in stainless steel, 25% of the wine spent 2 months in neutral oak. 600 cases of this selection were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $14. Bright red fruit aromas and hints of citrus are apparent on the nose of this wine. Strawberry, cherry and bits of vanilla bean are apparent through the palate. This wine is incredibly fruity and juicy with just a touch of sweetness to round things out. Raspberry and continued cherry flavors close things out with bits of spice weaving in and out. This Rosé works particularly well ice cold.

Today’s third wine is the Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Stepping Stone Corallina Syrah Rosé. The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Oak Knoll appellation within Napa Valley. This offering was produced entirely from Syrah. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel followed by 5 months of aging in neutral French oak. 455 cases of the Corallina were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $20. The Corallina Rosé from Cornerstone opens with a highly engaging and deeply perfumed nose. Red and black cherries are joined by a crush of spices including vanilla bean. The palate is loaded with continued red fruit characteristics including strawberries, cherries, hints of green herbs and a crush of spices led by nutmeg and white pepper. This wine is crisp, dry and refreshing. The finish shows off wisps of sour red fruits and a touch of crème fraiche. This is an very nice example of Rosé from Napa Valley and it will be an excellent partner to a wide array of summer foods.

Today’s final wine is the V. Sattui Winery 2011 North Coast Rosato. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignane. Fermentation took place with select yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel. This Rosé is available directly from the winery for $21.75. The first thing you’ll notice about the V. Sattui Rosé is that it has a slightly darker hue than the average. Made up of classic varietals the nose of this wine leaps from the glass with rich, red fruit aromas. Strawberry, red plum and a hint of red apple are apparent on the palate along with a bit of quince. Bright cherry, red raspberry, black and white pepper are all part of the finish which shows off the impression of sweetness due to all the engaging fruit flavors. This wine has a bit more heft than the other Rosé’s above and thus will stand up to some more substantial foods. Anything off of the grill will work perfectly.

This quartet of Rosé’s should keep your taste buds lit up all summer long. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing glass of wine to enjoy on your deck or something to pair with the foods of summer, I urge you to enjoy some Rosé this summer.