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Carignane

6 Budget Friendly Wines for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is less than a week away! That means we all need some wine to serve our guests or ourselves, preferably both. Spending top dollar to get good wines is fairly simple. Finding value driven offerings that get the job done is a bit more challenging. Here are some delicious selections that will work well for your Thanksgiving meal. With one exception they all clock in under $25. Even at lower price points it’s nice to have one splurge wine to consider. Espirit du Rhone 2013 Cotes du Rhone AOC ($11.99)

This wine blends together Grenache (60%), Syrah 30%), Carignan (5%), and Cinsault (5%). 1,000 cases of this wine have been imported to the US. Hints of anise and rhubarb aromas present on the nose here. The palate is studded with purple fruits, dry currants and Montmorency cherry. Bits of finely ground espresso join nutmeg and cinnamon on the finish. Medium tannins soften with a little bit of air. This acid rich, food friendly wine will pair with everything on your Thanksgiving table.

Decopas 2013 Malbec ($12)

All of the fruit for this wine comes from the Mendoza region of Argentina. It’s comprised entirely of estate bottled Malbec. This deeply colored hue of this wine is striking in the glass. Plum, violet, and a little hint of vanilla bean wafts from the appealing nose. The palate is loaded with sumptuous and juicy black fruit flavors such as blackberry and raspberry. Bay leaf characteristics, sour black cherry and a hint of dark chocolate mark the lip smacking finish. Decopas Malbec will pair well hard cheeses, meat based stuffing, ham and the bird itself. Decant this one for an hour and it’ll really pop.

Esporão Verdelho ($12.99)

The fruit for this wine was sourced from vines with an average age of 10 years on them. It’s composed entirely of Verdelho. It was fermented in a temperature controlled environment, stabilized, filtered and bottled without any oak influence. Hints of lemon and lots of fleshy yellow melon jump from the nose here. The palate has loads of green apple flavors, more citrus and lemon characteristics, as well as a dollop of white pepper. Grapefruit and lemon zest light up the crisp and refreshing finish. Hand your guests a glass of this when they walk through the door on Thanksgiving, they may drink it all day and never switch to red.

Georges Dubeouf Chateau les Capitans Julienas 2011 ($18.99)

All of the fruit for this wine was picked by hand. It’s composed entirely of Gamay. It was fermented in a temperature controlled environment using native yeast. Red cherry and cranberry fill the nose along with hints of toast. A cornucopia of dried red fruits and savory spices fill the flavorful, medium bodied palate. The finish lingers with continued red fruits, black tea, minerals and warming spices. This wine is tasty on it’s own but really shines with food.

Esporão Reserva Red ($24.99)

This offering blends together Aragonês, Trincaeira, Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet. Each grape was harvested and vinified separately. Barrel aging occurred over 12 months in American (70%), and French (30%) oak; 12 months of bottle aging followed prior to release. This red blend has a beautiful deep, dark purple color. Red and black fruits mix with copious spices on the welcoming and heady nose. There’s an inherent earthiness that leads the palate. Red and black fruits join in along with lots of spices. Cherry, strawberry, and black pepper are all joined by bits of roasted coffee bean on the above average finish. This wine has medium tannins and terrific acidity. Esporão Reserva Red is just begging to be paired with food. It’ll excel with just about anything you throw at it, making it a natural for the day of the bird.

Flora Springs 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)

All of the fruit for this wine came from Napa Valley. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (95%), small amounts of Malbec (3%), and Petit Verdot (2%) were also blended in. It was aged over 22 months in a combination of French (71%), and American oak (29%). Black Currant, cherry and Mexican Vanilla bean aromas are omnipresent on the nose. Black cherry with a splash of a liqueur dominates the palate which is plush and lush in its easy drinking, smooth nature. Crushed velvet, continued black and red cherry, earth, espresso and chicory are all present on the finish along with a hint of bitter chocolate. This is a fine example of Napa Valley Cabernet that drinks impeccably right out of the bottle. It does down easy and also has good depth and complexity.

First Day in Chile: Lunch at Miguel Torres Restaurante De Vinos

A couple of hours after arriving in Chile I found myself in the lobby of our hotel meeting up with my travelling companions for the next week. We were heading to lunch. The first meal together with a bunch of folks you don’t know can be telling. This particular lunch screamed, fun week ahead. I’m lucky to be travelling and learning about Chile with a friendly, diverse group that’s as thirsty for knowledge and well wine as I am. We proceeded to walk a few blocks to Miguel Torres Restaurante De Vinos the sight of our first meal together and, as it turned out later, a nightcap. What we experienced was a wonderful meal accompanied by some terrific wines. And speaking of wine the first sip I took on Chilean soil was a marvelous welcome. One of the folks on the trip noticed a sparkling wine she’d tasted prior and loved so we all decided to give it a shot. The wine was the Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado Rosé. This wine was produced from the grape Pais which played a large role in Chile prior to the influx of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. I can’t speak to other examples as to the best of my knowledge I’d not tasted the grape prior. One thing is certain I’m curious to taste some additional ones now. This was a really lovely Rosé, perfectly dry with persistent red fruits, spice and a more than reasonably long finish.

The food at Miguel Torres was as delicious as the wine. A feast of appetizers laid out in front of us disappeared quickly as did the first wine. Chickpea Fritters and a traditional omelet with potato and Piquillo peppers were my favorite bites amongst the appetizers. Both worked really well with the Rosé as well as the next wine, the Miguel Torres 2008 Cordillera Carmenère. The Miguel Torres portfolio has several tiers of wines and Cordillera is one of them; it represents smaller craftsman productions. This wine blends Carmenère with small amounts of Merlot and Petit Verdot. Delicious off the bat and featuring appealing black fruits, it really came into its own after getting a little bit of air. Carmenère promises to become a bigger and more widely known varietal for Chile, perhaps a calling card of sorts as Malbec is for neighboring Argentina. This example from Miguel Torres only strengthens that notion for me. We followed that wine up with the Miguel Torres 2008 Cordillera Carignan. One of my hopes for this visit to Chile is to taste many examples of things like Carignan, varietals that aren’t getting as much attention yet as they perhaps deserve. That said this wine was a good place to start that journey for me. It was interesting to compare to the Carmenère we’d just finished, particularly as it was not just from the same producer but also in the same tier. Sometimes producers fall into the trap of each tier being overworked by a house style that overwhelms the grapes characteristics. This was happily not the case here. Each wine stood out on it’s own with varietal character to spare. The Carignan was a bit more reserved and slightly austere where the Carmenère was juicier and more giving up front. It would depend on my mood and what I was eating on any given day but as it developed in the glass my preference shifted to the Carignan. It played hard to get a little and perhaps that was part of it. In any case I’d happily drink either one. And if they were paired with the wonderful foods we enjoyed at Miguel Torres, all the better.

Our meal ended with a selection of desserts accompanied by the Miguel Torres Vendimia Tardía Reserva Privada, a Late Harvest Wine made from Riesling. This was a sweet and lovely ending to the meal. As delicious as it was I’d bet this particular dessert wine would be even better served paired with a cheese course.

I mentioned a nightcap earlier and it took place in the same spot. After lunch we were given a tour of downtown Santiago. This afforded us the opportunity to see quite a few sections of the city; both the newer financial district where we’re currently staying as well as older areas that feature distinct architecture dating back to about 1910. After the tour was over we went back to the hotel for some downtime followed by dinner. After dinner our party was split into two, three of us chose well needed rest and the remainder of us chose more wine. We decided to go back to Miguel Torres and once there the obvious choice to drink became the Miguel Torres 2008 Cordillera Syrah. We’d had and loved the other red selections in this tier earlier so it seemed natural to close the day out with this offering. In addition to Syrah some Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier were blended in. Red cherry fruits filled the nose along with some darker berry components. They all carried through the palate along with spices and bits of chocolate. The finish which had a touch of smoke and green herb also showed nice length. In short this wine was what I expected after tasting the other two in the tier; a well made Syrah that showed off the varietal. It was delicious by itself but will sing with its supper.

That last bottle of wine was a wonderful way to cap my first day in Chile. The wines, food and people I spent the day with all came together and formed a harbinger of what promises to be a brilliant week, tasting and exploring what Chile has to offer.

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.

Oveja Negra - 2008 Lost Barrel

While I’ve been drinking Chilean wine for many years I feel reinvigorated to taste more and more of them lately. For several decades now we’ve been able to find lots of value in Chilean Wine on US shelves. But now we’re also seeing greater and greater numbers of wines in all price categories. Prices, styles and quality vary; but the bang for the buck is pretty constant across all tiers. Of course not every wine is great, but there are a lot out there to love. Today I’ll look at a Chilean blend from the Maule Valley. The Oveja Negra 2008 Lost Barrel was produced using fruit sourced in the Maule Valley of Chile; more specifically from the winery’s San Rafael Vineyard. This blend is a combination of Syrah (40%), Carignan (40%), Carménère (18%), and Petit Verdot (2%). The Carignan vines have 40 years of age on them. The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. It has a suggested retail price of $25.

Aromas of dark plum are joined by hints of eucalyptus and a touch of thyme to form a lovely nose. Cherry flavors with a just a touch of kirsch liqueur to them emerge in the palate. Additional characteristics take the form of dried fruits which show up in spades. Black tea also plays a role and leads towards the finish which shows off hints of smoked meat, dark chocolate and a touch of earth. This wine has yielding tannins and firm acidity.

What I love most about this red blend is how well it pairs with food. Quite frankly it’s a food lovers dream. The dried fruit characteristics and firm acidity, which form the backbone of its pairing ability, also put me slightly in the mind of good Chianti stylistically. The finish which is above average is another noteworthy aspect of this wine. Bottom line for me is that for $25 or a bit less if you shop around you’re getting an excellent value.

Cline Cellars - 2008 Ancient Vines Carignane

When was the last time you had a glass of Carignane? If the answer is that you never have, I’m not surprised. More often than not, this varietal ends up blended with other grapes. Sometimes it’s a serious player in an overall blend, other times it plays a supporting role in a varietal wine of another type. On occasion it’s bottled by its lonesome and the results do vary, but when the conditions and the winemaking are right a lovely wine can result. Today I’ll look at Cline Cellars varietal bottling of Carignane. The Cline Cellars 2008 Ancient Vines Carignane was sourced from vines in Contra Costa County. Many of the vineyard sites used feature vines with over 100 years of age on them. Fermentation occurred in stainless steel. Barrel aging occurred over 6 months in French oak; 35% of the barrels were new. The suggested retail price for this wine is $16.

Aromas of bramble, thyme and vanilla lead the charge in the nose of this 2008 Carignane.  Crushed cherry and blackberry flavors are prominent in the flavorfully fruity and somewhat brooding palate of this wine. Towards the back of the palate plum pudding spices emerge. They lead to a memorable finish that includes dark, sweet chocolate, earth and black pepper notes in copious quantities. Rock solid acidity keeps everything in check here. This wine is perfectly suited to pair with a dish of pasta, a platter of ribs or a smoked meat sandwich, to name but a few. It’s tasty on its own but it excels when paired with food.

If you drink Zinfandel or Syrah based wines a lot, give this Carignane a shot to try something different. You’ll find some of the characters each of those varietals typically exhibit as well as a host of others. For $16 this wine offers a lot of flavor and quality. The Cline Cellars 2008 Ancient Vines Carignane represents a solid value.