Gabe's View

Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Vino Dei Fratelli offers a Broad Array of Tasty Italian Values

Lately, I’ve tasted quite a bit of Italian wine. The wines I’ve tasted recently represent a real cross section of what’s available from Italy — they’re all over the spectrum in terms of price points, grapes used and style. And at the end of the day that’s really a microcosm of what Italy produces, which is great variety. The Vino Dei Fratelli line features wines made all over Italy, and made by several families that vary by area. Basically each family specializes in making wines from varietals that are indigenous to their area. By sourcing from a host of family producers throughout Italy, Fratelli is able to offer genuine regional wines at reasonable price-points under one umbrella. Here’s a look at a handful of their newest releases that I feel represent very good values. Read the rest over at

Piccini - 2011 Chianti DOCG "Orange Label"

These days Barolo, Brunello and even Aglianico often steal many of the headlines when it comes to Italian wine. However Chianti continues to be a go to choice for a lot of folks who drink offerings from Italy. And well it should be as they can often be well made at an affordable price. The fact that good Chianti is also one of the most natural food partners in the world certainly helps too. Today I’ll look at a current release from Piccini. The Piccini 2011 Chianti DOCG also known as Chianti Orange is the standard bearer in the Piccini line. This Chianti is a blend of Sangiovese (95%) and Cilliegiolo (5%). Fermentation is temperature controlled. This is followed by a second fermentation induced by adding a selection of withered Sangiovese grapes. This Chianti is widely available around the country and has a suggested retail price of $8.99.

Red cherry, wild strawberry, rose petal, and a bit of green herb emerge from the nose of this Chianti. Dried red fruit flavors lead the palate with bits of black fruit characteristics intermingled within. Black tea, pepper and warming red fruit elements make up the finish along with a subtle hint of earth. Firm acidity adds to the mouthwatering element of this wine.

This Chianti is very solid value in the $7 - $10 range. While it will pair well with a host of foods, you need no better excuse than this wine to make or order pizza. It will pair perfectly with a delicious pie. At this price it’s a good wine to purchase in quantity so you have some hanging around the house to enjoy anytime.

Tenuta di Vignole – 2006 Vignole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

Tenuta di Vignole is owned by the Nistri Family who has been involved locally in the wine business since the mid 1800’s. They acquired their 21 hectares of winery property in 1970. Their focus of course is on making Chianti. I recently had a chance to taste some of their wines alongside family member Fabrizio Nistri. They were, on the whole, delicious well made wines but one stood above the others for me and I’ll look at it today. The Tenuta di Vignole – 2006 Vignole Chianti Classico Riserva is produced from fruit sourced in the Panzano section of Chianti Classico. This offering is a blend of predominately Sangiovese (85%), with some Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) utilized as well. The fruit was handpicked and individual lots were fermented in concrete vats. Barrel aging took place over 20 months in a combination of 225 liter barriques and larger 400 liter vessels. After that time the lots were assembled and another 3 months of barrels aging commenced followed by 6 or more months of bottle aging. 1,200 6 pack cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $59.99.

Aromas of mushroom, spice and dry red fruits permeate the nose of this 2006 Chianti Classico Riserva. The palate is rich and loaded with mouth-filling red fruit flavors. Red raspberry and cherry star here and they are buoyed by clove and pepper spice. The finish is long and dry showing off continued spice and dried red fruit flavors. At 6 years old this wine is just beginning its life. It’s going to age well in bottle for a number of years more. It’s a fabulously structured example of Chianti that pairs wonderfully with food and will be a welcome addition to your table for a special occasion.

Gabe's 2011 Holiday Gift Guide

The 2011 Holiday Season is here and with it comes shopping and gift giving. There are all sorts of gifts to consider but I think wines and spirits are excellent gifts for those that appreciate such things. With that in mind I decided to compile a list of some items in that category. To make my list the items below had to meet some particular criteria: 1) it has to be something I heartily recommend. 2) It needs to be a good value. 3) It should be relatively easy to locate. 4) The list should take into account peoples various budget sizes. With that in mind here are 8 offerings that the wine and spirits lovers on your gift list will be happy to receive. The Lamberti Prosecco Veneto D.O.C. was made from fruit sourced at hillside vineyards throughout Treviso. This sparkling wine was produced utilizing the Charmat Method. This wine is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $13.99. This Prosecco has an effusive nose that shows off spice and fruits. Stone and citrus fruit flavors star through the palate along with loads of tingly spices. Brioche and hints of crumbled biscotti emerge on the finish which has good length. This wine shows off hints of sweetness and is a very appealing wine. It’ll work well on its own or paired with food. It would be a particularly nice choice for a Brunch. Sparkling wine generally makes people happy. Here’s a tasty choice that makes a perfect, modestly priced gift.

The Apaltagua 2009 Envero Carménère was produced from fruit sourced in the Apalta section of Chile’s Colchagua Valley. This is an estate vineyard 60 hectares in size. The 2009 vintage is a blend of Carménère (93%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (7%). Barrel aging took place over 12 months; an additional 6 months of bottle aging followed prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $16.00. This Carménère has a fresh and lively nose. It shows off red and black fruit aromas as well as hints of eucalyptus. Juicy black currant and cherry flavors lead the palate as well a host of spices. This Carménère has a solid finish that lingers with sour black fruits and continued spices. Yielding tannins and firm acidity mark the structure and make this a terrific food wine. Carménère has been making inroads with US wine lovers over the last few years. This is a grape with lots of appeal to a wide array of folks. It’s ready to please fruits, as well as the fact that it’s still a discovery grape for some make this a particularly excellent gift for the newer wine lovers on your list.

The Sandeman Founder’s Reserve Port was produced from fruit sourced in the Douro Region of Portugal. Fermentation of this wine was stopped with the addition of chilled Brandy. This Port is aged for at least 5 years prior to release. It has a suggested retail price of $19. The Founder’s reserve has a deep red color, looking most like a young Vintage Port. The aromas it gives off lean towards red fruits laced with copious spices. Cherry flavors drive the palate and lead to a wonderful compote of dark, brooding berry flavors which are joined by plum pudding spices. Warming red fruits and loads of sweet dark chocolate mark the finish, which has tremendous length for the price point. The Founder’s Reserve is a great choice to drink while your Vintage Ports are aging. For its reasonable price tag it makes an affordable gift that offers lots of flavor and quality. This is an adaptable Port that’s delicious on its own, paired with desserts or used as the base of an inventive cocktail. It’s also currently available in decorative tins, perfect for gift giving.

The Biltmore Estate 2007 Blanc de Blancs Brut was produced using méthode champenoise. This offering is 100% Chardonnay, produced from fruit sourced in the Russian River Valley. After temperature controlled fermentation at cold conditions this wine underwent a secondary fermentation in bottle and aged for approximately 24 months prior to disgorging. This wine has a suggested retail price of $24.99. Lemon Zest and hints of brioche fill the nose of this 2007 Sparkling Wine. Apple, citrus and Bartlett pear flavors are all on display throughout the palate. Hints of ginger and flaky biscuits emerge on the finish which has nice length. This is a perfectly dry wine which is particularly well suited to pair with dinner. It’s fine on it’s own but excels when matched with the right dish. This is highly recommended for those who are open to New World Sparkling Wines.

The Frescobaldi 2006 Montesodi Riserva Chianti Rufina DOCG was produced from fruit sourced at the Castello di Nipozzano Pelago home estate. This vineyard sits roughly 1,300 feet above sea level. The vines have an average age of 16 years on them. This wine is 100% Sangiovese. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats over 10 days. Aging took place in Barriques over 24 months; 6 months of bottle aging followed.  The Montesodi Riserva Chianti is only made in select vintages. This wine has a suggested retail price of $52. Violet, rose petal, and dried red fruit aromas fill the nose of this Chianti Riserva. Dried fruit flavors, cherry and blueberry in particular, star throughout the palate which has impressive depth and complexity. Layers of spice emerge and lead to the finish which shows off black tea, and hints of dusty chocolate. This wine has tremendous length, awesome acidity and terrific overall structure. This is everything you would want in top shelf Chianti. It’ll drink well for at least a decade, if it’s being consumed in the short term it should be decanted for a couple of hours for best results. This is a tremendous gift for the Gourmand in your life who likes to slave over a great meal and pair it with a fabulous wine.

The Rodney Strong 2008 Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced in a single vineyard. It was from this vineyard in 1971 that Sonoma County’s first single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was produced. This offering is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aging took place over 22 months in all French oak; 47% of the barrels were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $75. Deep, dark berry aromas, toast and vanilla fill the bold nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate here is simply overrun with blackberry, black plum, raspberry and cherry flavors. Black pepper and clove spices also make their presence known. Roast espresso, sweet dark chocolate and additional spices emerge on the finish which has excellent length and remarkable depth. This is a big, bold, brash, spicy mouthful of Cabernet Sauvignon that does a tremendous job of showing off its Alexander Valley roots. While Alexander’s Crown is delicious now it’ll benefit from time in the bottle. Those with the patience to lay this down for a decade will be justly rewarded. If someone on your holiday gift list loves California Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll have a hard time finding a more appropriate gift than this wine which is a jewel in the Rodney Strong Portfolio.

The Sandeman 30 Year old Tawny Port was aged in wooden casks. Over a period of time the fortified wine receives slow exposure to air which ages it and changes the color to the beautiful caramel typical of Tawny Ports Throughout their life the wines utilized are racked from time to time. As the name indicates the average age of the wines used to assemble this Tawny Port is 30. This Port has a suggested retail price of $99.99. Stone fruit in the form of Apricot underpinned by yellow peach lead the nose of this Port along with fruitcake spice and. Apricot flavors continue through the palate where they are dominant. Honey, hazelnut and almond characteristic are present along with white pepper spice. The impressively long finish shows off chamomile tea as well as a bit of caramel and continued spices and stone fruit flavors. This Port can certainly act as dessert all by itself. That said it works extremely well paired with food. A cheese course would be my top pick to match it with. In any case if there’s a Port lover in your life this would be a wonderful gift they will be sure to treasure.

It’s not often that I stray from the wine world here. However sometimes the mood or occasion calls for a beverage not made from grapes. Single Malt Scotch is one of the spirits that often has crossover appeal to those who like to sit and philosophize over their wines. So With that in mind here’s a look at a Single Malt that has really hit the spot for me on a number of occasions.

The Balvenie 12 Year DoubleWood is a Single Malt Scotch. During the aging process it’s moved from a traditional oak cask to a European Sherry cask. This Scotch sells for about $49.99. This Scotch has a great big nose that really develops over 15 or so minutes in the glass. Vanilla and hints of apricot are present. From the very first sip this Scotch distinguished itself by presenting lots of depth and a range of flavors. It is simultaneously fruity and spicy with a nice overall bite. The finish is above average in length and has rich, honeyed flavors and a bit of warmth in the final note. It’s apparent that the use of two types of wood for varying lengths of time really added to the complexity and finesse of this Scotch. If someone on your list is into Single Malt’s this offering from Balvenie is an excellent choice. It’s a distinct expression that stands apart from many of the 12 years Single Malts in its price range.

The selections above provide some excellent choices for gift giving this Holiday Season. I happily stand squarely behind them as good values in their respective categories as well as really tasty products that I enjoy a great deal. Happy Shopping.

Marchesi de Frescobaldi - 2006 Nipozzano Chianti Rùfina DOCG Riserva

Sometimes a single word evokes a myriad of thoughts and images. In this case that word is Chianti. Most wine drinkers recognize this as an Italian wine. But depending on how deeply immersed in wine one is, not everyone also realizes that’s it’s a region in Italy. Just about everything in European wine is based on area of origination. That includes what grapes can go into local wines. In Chianti of course as with numerous other areas of Italy, Sangiovese is the predominant grape. Marchesi de Frescobaldi has been producing wine in Italy for thirty generations. Their range of offerings vary from entry level selections (such as Remole for $10) that are appropriate for everyday drinking to higher end Brunellos and the like suitable for aging, collecting and most importantly fine drinking. Today I’ll look at the current release of the Nipozzano Riserva, one of their most recognizable, affordable and widely available wines. The Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rùfina DOCG Riserva 2006 was produced using fruit sourced at their Castello di Nipozzano estate vineyard. In addition to Sangiovese (90%), this wine includes Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in small quantities. Oak aging was accomplished over 24 months in Barrique. This wine also underwent 3 months of bottle aging prior to release. The suggested retail price for this wine is $22.99.

This 2006 Chianti has a striking deep red hue that leans ever so slightly towards purple. Cherry and leather aromas lead the nose along with floral elements. Cherry notes, both red and black continue their role as they are the focus of this wines palate. Dark plum notes are present as well. All of these flavors are underscored by a wave of gentle spice characteristics (vanilla, white pepper, nutmeg among others) that kick in around mid-palate and continue on to the long, lingering and pleasing finish. Sour cherry is a significant component on the finish along with a subtle hint of earth and Kalamata olive, as well as black pepper. This Chianti has firm but yielding tannins and crisp acidity. Wine is best when partnered with food. Italian wines tend to lean heavily in that direction. The Nipozzano Riserva 2006 is no exception. It’ll pair well with a wide array of foods. Strong cheeses, roasted meats or a dish of pasta with red sauce are a few obvious sure fire bets.

This wine is pretty accessible right out of the bottle. But I still highly recommend letting this Chianti breathe if you have the time. An hour in the decanter will prove to be a revelation. It allows this wine to fully open up and expose all its many charms. Delicious now, this wine will evolve over the next 7-8 years (at minimum) and drink well for several after that. For around $20 this is an affordable wine most can drink on a regular basis. The price is also reasonable enough to stash away a case for aging. You could check on a bottle every year or so, make your own notes and watch it age and evolve. This is a terrific way to learn about wine, and more importantly perhaps your own palate.

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