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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Napa Valley

Ladera 2014 Howell Mountain Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Ladera 2014 Howell Mountain Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

There’s a purity, freshness and vigor in well shepherded mountain fruit that’s simply different from fruit grown elsewhere…I know that when exceptional Mountain Cab passes my lips it’s pretty obvious; this is one of those cases.

Raymond Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon - Reserve Selection 40th Anniversary

Raymond Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon - Reserve Selection 40th Anniversary

Raymond Vineyards in Napa Valley has undergone a renaissance since being purchased by Jean-Charles Boisset in 2009. The winery was founded in 1970; but the Raymond Family has a history in the valley that goes back much further than that. 2014 marked the 40th anniversary of the family’s first harvest. So this year they’ve released a special Reserve 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon adorned with a red velvet label to commemorate that anniversary.

Raymond Vineyards 2014 Reserve Selection 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (92%), small amounts of Petit Verdot (4%), Petite Sirah (2%), and Malbec (2%) were blended in. Most of the fruit was chosen from estate vineyards in St. Helena and Rutherford; additional grapes came from a handful of local growers. Barrel aging was accomplished over 19 months in entirely French oak; 30% were new. Red raspberry and violet aromas are laced with bits of vanilla bean on the nose. The palate is stuffed with an explosion of black and red cherry flavors. Earth, baker’s chocolate, and crushed cherries are all layered on the long, velvety finish along with intermingling bits of spice. Firm tannins and acid provide excellent structure. This Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly enjoyable now but it’ll improve with some bottle age. I’d lay it down for 5-6 years and drink it in the 6-7 years after that.

Obviously there’s a ton of Cabernet Sauvignon being produced in Napa Valley. Styles, price points and more vary wildly, to say the least. For $40 this offering from Raymond Vineyards provides lots of drinking pleasure and a more than reasonable level of complexity. You can even lay it down for a while if you want.

Marc Mondavi and Family Present Aloft

aloftMany members of the Mondavi Family have been involved in the California wine industry for generations. Their two largest and best-known wineries are Charles Krug, part of the Peter Mondavi family, and the Robert Mondavi Winery, which was started by Peter’s brother Robert. While these are tentpoles in Napa Valley, various Mondavi family members have started and maintained all sorts of other projects of varying scope One of those projects is Aloft,. created by Marc Mondavi and his family. Marc, one of Peter’s sons, conceived this wine with the help of his wife and daughters. All of the fruit comes from their own Cold Springs Vineyard, which sits on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. I recently sat down with Marc’s daughter Alycia and tasted the 2009 vintage of Aloft. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Visiting Napa's Round Pond Estate

2012RutherfordCab750ml_FrontThere are literally hundreds of ways to taste wine in Napa Valley. The classic tried and true way is to bump up to the bar and enjoy a range of current offerings. Napa started doing that way back when and allowed Vintners to showcase their wares. The idea was and still is that if you liked one or more of their wines you’d take some home to enjoy later. At most wineries you can still do this. Many tasting rooms, all over now, also offer additional ways to enjoy wine. This can be as simple as a wine and cheese pairing or as involved as a helicopter flight to a mountain top tasting. Round Pond Estate has chosen to allow guests to enjoy the bounty of their property and all that encompasses in a number of ways. Depending on how much time you want to commit and what parts of Round Pond you’d like to see you can spend as little as half an hour there, or as much as a day. For my recent visit I cut it right down the middle and spent more than 2 hours there. My guest and I took part in Round Pond’s Il Pranzo Lunch ($120). Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Darioush: A Warm and Inviting Napa Valley Palace

4Darioush_DarioushKhalediPortraitOn a recent trip to Napa Valley, I scheduled time with producers I’ve never visited and a handful I have been to previously. In one case I’d been several times prior, but not in a few years, and it was time to correct that and see what they were up to. That particular producer is Darioush, a fairly small winery in terms of production size. In all, they make about 20,000 cases of wine each year and roughly half of that is their best-known wine, a cabernet sauvignon. Darioush sits towards the southern end of Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail. Of the two main thoroughfares in Napa, Silverado is the less densely populated, slightly quieter one. Darioush’s physical structure is one of the more lavish and ostentatious in the valley. It was founded by Darioush Khaledi, an Iranian immigrant who made his fortune with a family-owned grocery store chain in Southern California. As you drive up, it’s difficult not to be enraptured by the gorgeous property and winery building. In fact, the building is so incredible that you... Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Gabe's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

GiftGuideCover_AmandaJeanBlackIf you’re not sure what to get someone as a gift this year, consider a good bottle of wine or spirits —‚ always in season. Anyone who drinks alcohol will certainly appreciate a well-chosen bottle to enjoy, be it alone or with friends (my hope is that it’s with you). Throughout the year, I’ve tasted a number of the best bottles in both the wine and spirit categories and compiled a list of my 24 favorites — any of which would make excellent gifts for a variety of budgets. A few of the bottles are particularly great values, while others are luxury beverages that will really impress the lucky person who receives them; no matter the price, every selection in this guide is delicious and well made. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

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.

Visiting Clif Family Winery in the Heart of Napa Valley

Clif Family Winery RifugioMost every moment I spend in wine regions I’m on the hunt. Of course I’m looking for excellent wine, but when I’m on the ground somewhere I’m searching for brilliant tasting experiences too. They come in every shape and size, offering everything from just wine, to light pairings, all the way to full on meals accompanying wines. I just spent 10 days split between Napa Valley and Sonoma County; and on this trip alone had a huge variety of experiences. Many of them were quite good and well worth mentioning. One, however, stood above the pack. To say my tasting at Clif Family Winery was a homerun would be to sell the experience short. The tasting at Clif Family Winery is a Hall-of-Fame-caliber tasting, easily in the top five tasting experiences available in Napa Valley. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.