Gabe's View

Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Dry Creek Valley’s Pedroncelli Winery Nears a Milestone

Dry Creek Valley’s Pedroncelli Winery Nears a Milestone

This coming July Pedroncelli Winery, one of Dry Creek Valley’s most storied and dependable producers will turn 90 years old. In honor of reaching that significant marker the Pedroncelli family is celebrating all year

Acorn Winery: A Russian River Valley Treasure

Acorn_2011_Medley_300dpi_BtlAcorn Winery is a labor of love for owners Betsy and Bill Nachbaur. They’ve been farming their property, Alegría Vineyards, sustainably since 1990. On their 32 acres in Russian River Valley, they grow 60 grape varieties. From that they bottle approximately 3,000 cases of wine each year; every one of them field blends. Their commitment to environmentally sound practices even includes doing away with foil capsules on the bottle. I’ve been a fan of what they do for years now and try to visit them whenever I can. I was out in Sonoma County recently and I spent some time with them, chatting and of course tasting through their latest releases. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

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

Stickybeak - 2011 Toscana

Stickybeak is a California based winery that sources grapes in a host of regions such as Napa, Sonoma and Monterey. They have now widened their reach by making a wine with fruit sourced in Italy. These particular grapes come from the 40 year old Cerreto Guidi vineyards located in Tuscany. Here’s a look at this Italian blend. The Stickybeak 2011 Toscana was produced from a blend of Sangiovese (85%), Merlot (10%) and Syrah (5%). The Sangiovese and Merlot were both sourced in Tuscany with the Syrah coming from Maremma which is close by. Wild yeasts were used for fermentation which took place over roughly 15 days. Each varietal was aged separately over 18 months in entirely French oak. Blending occurred prior to bottling. This wine is finished in screw cap and has a suggested retail price of $20. Violet and red cherry aromas light up the nose of this Tuscan blend. Strawberry, cherry, spice, and vanilla bean are all in play throughout the palate which has nice depth. Leather, cherry, raspberry and black peppercorn flavors all show up in the finish which has above average length. This wine really shines when paired with food. Anything with red sauce on it will work well. I drank it with homemade pizza and it was memorable and delicious combo.

A lot of wines are looking for your attention and your wine dollars in the $20 or under category. Here’s an example that shines with food. It has excellent Sangiovese character at the forefront with the Merlot providing a bit of structure and the Syrah some pronounced wisps of sweet berry fruit. It’s terrific now and will drink well over the next 5 years. This is a very solid value.

Castello di Amorosa - 2009 Napa Valley Sangiovese

Castello di Amorosa is an ostentatious winery in Napa Valley founded by Dario Sattui who has owned V. Sattui for years. It’s styled like an old Italian Castle. Their focus is largely on Italian varietals. Today I’ll look at the current release of their Napa Valley Sangiovese. The Castello di Amorosa 2009 Napa Valley Sangiovese was produced from fruit sourced throughout Napa Valley. Some is from estate fruit in Calistoga and the balance comes from other parts of the valley. In addition to Sangiovese (90%) a small amount of Merlot (10%) was also blended in. After fermentation this wine spent 18 months aging in French oak barrels. Just more than 3,500 cases were produced and it sells for $30.

Rose petals, cherry blossoms and bits of spice all emerge from the nose of this 2009 Sangiovese. The palate is layered with wave after wave of red cherry characteristics. Bits of black cherry are present as well and make their presence known. Dry, warming red fruits, bay leaf, black pepper and more are all part of an elegant finish that has excellent length. This wine has medium tannins and firm acidity.

This Sangiovese has the flavor profile of a Napa Valley imbued Chianti Classico. The style and intent certainly says Italy, but the richness of the fruit belies that a bit and reveals its actual origin. At the end of the day none of that matters; this is a very nice Sangiovese that’s primed to pair with food. It’ll work with a wide array, but I suggest a hearty Italian meal for best results.

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.

Benessere Vineyards - 2007 Phenomenon

Benessere Vineyards is a boutique sized winery in Napa Valley that's also a treasure to those lucky enough to discover it. They produce varietally correct wines sourced from their estate vineyards. The fact that they lean towards Italian varietals such as Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio makes them somewhat unique in the valley. Their property is beautiful and the wines are by and large delicious and fairly priced. Today I’ll look at the current release of Phenomenon, their red Super Tuscan inspired blend. The Benessere Vineyards 2007 Phenomenon is a proprietary blend. This Napa Valley wine was made entirely from fruit sourced at their Estate Vineyard in St. Helena. Cabernet Sauvignon (49%), Sangiovese (38%), Merlot (11%), and Syrah (2%) were fermented and barrel aged separately. They were then assembled and barrel aged for two additional years prior to release. Just fewer than 500 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50.

The nose of this 2007 blend is loaded with dark fruit aromas and spice. Plum and blueberry characteristics lead the way and they’re accompanied by cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and a hint of eucalyptus. The plate of this wine is impressively loaded with a terrific array of expressive flavors that are lead by deep, dark fruit flavors such as black cherry, and plum. Earth, chicory, black tea and continued waves of spice reverberate on the finish which has terrific length. The 2007 Phenomenon is a great example of what a blend should be; each of the varietals comes together seamlessly to form a cohesive unit. This wine is delicious on its own, but really shines when paired with food. Roasted meats and dishes with red sauce will work well as will medium strength cheeses and charcuterie.

Benessere Vineyards did well to release to release this wine when they did. It’s inviting, engaging and ready to drink now. While it’ll certainly continue to improve for a few years and drink well over the next 6-8, it’s delicious and hard to resist right now. So I vote to pop that cork sooner rather than later. And when your travels take you to Napa Valley, be sure to visit this terrific winery.

Poggiotondo - 2011 Vermentino IGT / 2010 Rosso IGT

Italy is well represented on the shelves of good US wine shops. Whether you’re looking for a Barolo, Chianti Classico or Amarone you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you’re in the mood for. Over time the availability of some varietals that are lesser know to us in America are increasing as are the number of blends that utilize both indigenous and international grapes. Here’s a look at a couple of current releases from Poggiotondo that fall into those categories. The Poggiotondo 2011 Vermentino IGT was produced from fruit sourced in the winery’s home region of Tuscany. This offering is 100% Vermentino. Fermentation took place in a combination of stainless steel (85%) and French oak (15%). Their estate which is over 123 acres has both vines and olive trees on it. After fermentation this wine saw two months of contact with the lees during aging. This wine has a suggested retail price of $20. Lemon zest, hazelnut and mango aromas are all prevalent on the nose of this Vermentino. Bartlett pear and yellow delicious apple flavors are on display throughout the palate along with hints of grapefruit. An impressive amount of minerality is in evidence throughout, particularly on the finish which has excellent length. The Poggiotondo Vermentino has lively acidity and nice structure; it's a pleasure to drink on its own but it’s truly made to pair with food. I enjoyed it alongside a roasted beet salad with goat cheese which worked perfectly. This wine is best served a couple of degrees warmer than the average white wine. That really allows it to open up and show its true charms.

The Poggiotondo 2010 Rosso IGT is a blend of Sangiovese (40%), Merlot (30%) and Syrah (30%). The fruit for this wine comes from their home estate in the north-western end of Tuscany. After hand harvesting the grapes underwent a pre-ferment and cold soak. Fermentation followed in stainless steel tanks followed by 8 months of aging. A final two months of time in bottle was allowed prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $11. Red cherry, earth and hints of green herb are prominent on the nose of this Red Tuscan blend. Blueberry, raspberry and cherry flavors (black and red) emerge on the palate of this wine along with bits of leather. Cranberry, rhubarb as well as bits of smoke and spice are part of the finish which has good length. Firm zippy acidity helps make this a nice everyday food wine. This is a good selection for Pizza night or with grilled meats.

These wines from Poggiotondo represent good values for everyday consumption. They each show off good character and are fruit driven wines that will work particularly well with food. Both should be consumed over the next few years for maximum pleasure.

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.

Luce della Vite - 2007 Luce

The 2007 vintage of Luce from Luce della Vite was produced using fruit grown in Montalcino. This offering is a blend of Sangiovese (45%) and Merlot (55%). Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel over 12 days. Barrel aging was accomplished over 24 months in a combination of new (90%) and once used (10%) barriques. 4,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $93. The deeply perfumed nose of this 2007 Tuscan blend is loaded with Aromas of dried red fruits and rose petals. Dried fruits continue on the palate where cherries, strawberries and intense spices join black tea, rhubarb and pepper to fill out layer after layer of flavor. Earth, minerals and a veritable truckload of red cherry emerges on the finish which has tremendous length and persistence. This selection is a food wine that’s balanced by even structure and terrific acidity. Pair Luce with an Italian feast.

If you’re going to drink the 2007 Luce now, decant it for a couple of hours to achieve best results. However if you’re patient lay it down for 10-15 years and you’ll be rewarded with an even lovelier and more impressive wine. These two grapes work well together to form a wine that has excellent aromatics, structure and intensity. What most distinguishes the 2007 vintage of Luce is its absolutely remarkable depth of palate which is loaded with complex favors both overt and subtle; additionally the incredible length of the finish which goes on well after the last sip is swallowed is quite notable and exciting.

Benessere Vineyards - 2010 Rosato, Napa Valley Rosé

Rosé is one of the many reasons I look forward to warm weather. I’m glad to report that as a wine culture in this country we’ve gotten better in the last few years when it comes to embracing good, dry Rosé. Just about every wine making country has a Rosé tradition; this is particularly true in Europe. In Italy the tradition is Rosato and Napa Valley’s Benessere Vineyards, whose focus is Italian varietals, makes their own Rosato which I’ll look at today. The Benessere Vineyards 2010 Rosato was produced using Napa Valley fruit. This Rosé is composed of Zinfandel (49%), Sangiovese (41%) and Merlot (10%). Small amounts of the juice from each grape were bled off just prior to fermentation. This blend which becomes the Rosato was fermented in stainless steel tanks. Less than 300 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $16.

The nose of this Rosé brings to mind a bowl of fresh ripe red fruits. Cherry and raspberry flavors lead the palate which also shows off a nice core of spices. Red raspberry and a bit of blackberry emerge on the finish which is crisp and clean. This Rosé is fruity with just a bit of perceived sweetness poking through. The Benessere Rosato has a bit more heft than the average Rosé and will stand up to more substantial foods quite nicely. That said it’s perfectly delectable all by itself.

Benessere Vineyards makes Napa Valley wines that allow the Italian varietals they often work with to shine. Their portfolio is filled with wines which are elegant, balanced, food friendly and fairly priced. The 2010 Rosato is just one example of that. Check back soon for my look at their Zinfandels.

deLorimer Winery - 2006 Alexander Valley Sangiovese

Sangiovese is one of the classic varietals of Italy. It really thrives as a true workhorse grape there forming the backbone of wines in numerous regions throughout the country. Outside of Italy however Sangiovese hasn’t always done as well. Often times growers and producers outside of Italy make the wine in a style that isn’t true to the essence of this wonderful grape. From time to time though I run across an example of Sangiovese, from outside Italy, which captures the true spirit and soul of this legendary grape. Today I’ll look at such an offering from a producer in Alexander Valley. The deLorimer Winery 2006 Alexander Valley Sangiovese was made from fruit sourced in a vineyard planted in 1982. That Alexander valley vineyard sits at an elevation of 310 feet above sea level. In addition to Sangiovese (86%), this wine also contains Cabernet Sauvignon (14%). Grapes for this selection were hand harvested. After fermentation this wine was barrel aged in French oak over a period of 30 months. 190 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $29.

Rose petals, leather, cigar box and red fruit aromas light up the nose of this 2006 Alexander Valley Sangiovese. Throughout the palate dried cherry fruit flavors carry the day. Red delicious apple notes play a role as well along with an undercurrent of darker berry fruit. Nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, earth and espresso are all part of a lengthy finish which turns slightly lusty as the vibrant flavors go on for awhile.

This is one of the better examples of Sangiovese from California I’ve sampled. It’s true to its varietal, and with the generous dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon, shows some of the tendencies and structure of a Super Tuscan style wine. It’s very well balanced and will drink well for the next 5-6 years at minimum. This is without question a food lover’s dream wine. Pair it with strong cheeses, roasted meats or pasta in red sauce for excellent results.

Luce della Vite - 2007 Lucente

When it comes to red wine from Tuscany the first thing that springs to mind is Sangiovese. That Italian grape is responsible for some of the world’s very best wines. For a number of years now international varietals have of course also made a foothold there. Today I’ll look at a blend that combines the local and the international; most often these are referred to as Super Tuscans. The Luce della Vite 2007 Lucente was produced using grapes sourced in the Montalcino section of Tuscany. This blend is made up of Merlot (50%), Sangiovese (35%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%). Fermentation took place in stainless steel. Barrel aging was accomplished over 12 months in a combination of French and American oak; 60% of the barrels were new. 213,000 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $29.99.

Violets, dark cherry and thyme scents all emerge in the nose of this wine. Those aromas are a bit reticent at first but really come into their own as the wine opens up. So too with the palate, and about an hour in the decanter is heartily recommended to get the most from this offering. There is an absolute avalanche of dried fruit flavors present throughout the palate; both red and black reference point are included. Black pepper spice plays a role here as well and leads to the finish which shows off a terrific amount of prominent earth as well as lesser forceful espresso characteristics. Dusty cocoa notes close things out with a final flourish. This wine has excellent acidity and firm but yielding tannins.

This is a case of the Super Tuscan model working very well. The international varieties play a vital role, but never overshadow the Sangiovese, which is at the core of this wine even though it’s only 35% of the blend. At the end of the day this is a interesting wine that is both stylish and elegant in approach and overall mouth-feel. Pair this with any number of classic Italian dishes for a terrific match. Available in the mid $20’s if you shop around, this is a solid value.

Robert Oatley - 2009 Rosé / 2009 Pinot Grigio / 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Today I’m going to take a look at three more wines that are perfectly suited for warm weather drinking. These selections are all from Robert Oatley Vineyards. This producer is located in the Mudgee section of Australia, one of the highest elevation winegrowing regions in the country. Robert Oatley has been making wine in Australia for over 40 years. Over time he began to procure land in the Mudgee region and when the time came to start his namesake winery he did so there. First up is the Robert Oatley 2009 Rosé of Sangiovese. This wine was made from fruit sourced at the family vineyards 1,500 feet plus above sea level in Mudgee, This offering is 100% varietal and saw no oak treatment. This wine has a suggested retail price of $15. The nose of this Rosé is marked by aromas of cherry and fresh wild strawberry. Throughout the palate watermelon flavors lead the charge accompanied by cherry and red raspberry as well. A hint of orange peel kicks in at the back of the palate and leads to the finish which has a host of spice notes and lingering fruit flavors. This wine shows crisp acidity and good balance

Next up is the Robert Oatley 2009 Pinot Grigio. Fruit for this wine was sourced from a vineyard in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. This wine is 100% Pinot Grigio. Alcohol content is a modest 13% for this offering. This wine has a suggested retail price of $16. Bartlett pear and lychee fruit aromas are the most prominent components of this wine’s nose. Orchard fruit is the key element in the palate with both apple and pear playing a big role. Hints of vanilla and pie crust underlie the fruit. Ginger and white peach flavors emerge in the finish which also shows off hints of savory fruit. This Pinot Grigio has more in common with old word examples than it does with most new world versions. It’s crisp, dry and a natural partner for food.

Last up this time out is the Robert Oatley 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. Fruit for this selection was sourced in Pemberton on the Western side of Australia, almost 2,000 miles from Mudgee. This selection is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. As with the other two selections alcohol content is modest, in this case 12.2%. This wine, like the others, is finished in screw cap and has a suggested retail price of $16. Gooseberry, lemon zest and wisps of grass are all present in the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. An array of citrus flavors is on display throughout the palate; grapefruit, lime and lemon are the strongest trio. All the citrus notes are accompanied by copious amounts of spice. These come together to form a zippy, zesty flavor profile. Hints of white peach and honey emerge on the finish along with continuing spice, particularly white pepper. This wine has excellent acidity.

These three wines from Robert Oatley have much in common despite being very different wines in most ways. Balance and food friendliness are the key elements they share. While each wine is full favored and loaded with varietal character none of them are over the top, or quite frankly anywhere in that ballpark. These are wines you can enjoy every day that will pair well with warm weather and food. Their modest alcohol content and even keeled nature also means they won’t exhaust your palate. With a suggested retail price of around $15 apiece these wines are good values.

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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Martin & Weyrich - 2005 Il Palio Sangiovese

proof102133-1Paso Robles, in the Central Coast of California has been a favorite region of mine for a number of years now. The number of high quality, well priced, and unique wines emerging from Paso seems to increase with each passing year. Rhone varietals and Zinfandels are amongst the first things that come to mind when thinking of Paso Robles. But there are a growing number of Wineries producing Italian varietals with great success. Martin & Weyrich has been in operation since 1981 and Italian varietals are at the core of what they do. Today I'll look at their current release of Sangiovese The 2005 Martin & Weyrich Il Palio Sangiovese is made from fruit sourced at two Estate Vineyards. This wine is 100% Sangiovese. Aging was done in French oak; 20% of the barrels were new. Just over 2,100 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $16.

Cherries, vanilla and nutmeg notes are prominent in the nose of this Paso Sangiovese. Throughout the palate red berry fruit and back pepper dominate the flavors. Sour cherry and earth notes tell the story of this wine's above average finish. This offering has excellent balance and tremendously pleasing acidity, which make this a perfect foil for a wide array of foods. I had it with Pizza and found that it matched well. Meats and hard cheeses would work as well. Italian dishes with red sauce are a no brainer.

What I like best about this wine is that it displays both old and new world elements. I recommend decanting this wine for about 45 minutes; some air really helps it shine. It's ability to be made in such a wide array of styles makes Sangiovese  Italy's MVP grape, and star of Chianti and Brunello to name but a few. It's slowly emerged in the US, specifically in California, here's hoping it take s a real foothold. If you haven't had any Sangiovese from California, or just haven't found one you loved yet, give the Il Palio a shot, it's well worth its $16 price tag.

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Biondi Santi - 2001 Brunello di Montalcino

Fittingly the last wine this week from Biondi Santi is their Brunello di Montalcino. This is perhaps their best known offering year after year and one of the legendary releases to emerge from Italy annually. The 2001 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Vineayrds sources for this offering are between 10 and 25 years old. This selection was aged in Slavonian oak for 3 years followed by a minimum of 4 months bottle refining. 4750 cases of this Brunello were produced and the suggested retail price is $190.

Not surprisingly this wine is very reticent at first. If you're thinking about drinking it now, decant it for 10-12 hours. As it opens the nose shows cherry, eucalyptus, vanilla and cedar notes. Spice is the hallmark of the mid-palate with nutmeg and pepper as the main attractions. These spices are accompanied by fresh fruit flavors of red plum, bing cherry and light wild strawberry. The finish is very long and persistent with spice, earth and terrific mineral notes that cling to the back of the throat as this one closes out. This is is a rich, full flavored wine that should be paired with an equally opulent meal. Osso Buco, Grilled Tuscan Steak and Shepherds Pie come to mind as obvious complements.

What I like best about this wine is the tremendous finish that goes on for a long time, offering great complexity. Right now, though, this wine is a baby. My recommendation would be to sock a couple of these away for an anniversary or other special occasion 15 or more years down the road. By then this wine will have had a chance to resolve itself, secondary flavors will be more developed and it will be more impressive all around. As noted above if you do decide to drink it anytime soon, decant it for at least 10 hours. A tremendous example of a benchmark Brunello in a very good vintage. Kudos to Biondi Santi.

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Up Next: Winemaker Dinner, Renae Hirsch of Henry's Drive.

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Biondi Santi - 2003 Rosso di Montalcino

The last two selections I'm looking at this week from Biondi Santi are from the legendary estate itself. This winery is not only a well known and regarded Italian Estate but a crucial player in the establishment of Brunello di Montalcino as a region. Today's selection is a Rosso di Montalcino. The 2003 Biondi Santi Rosso di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Aging occurred in Slavonian oak for 12 months, followed by 4 months in bottle. Approximately 1,500 cases of this wine are produced each year. The suggested retail price for this offering is $75. Checking wine-searcher shows it's often available for about $10 less.

This Rosso di Montalcino has a heavily perfumed, concentrated nose featuring vanilla, violets, subtle strawberry notes and a touch of earth emerging once it's had a chance to open up. Decanting for an hour at minimum is highly recommended. Dried wild strawberry is prominent from the first sip onward. The mid-palate adds dried cherry and red raspberry notes, accompanied by subtle nutmeg, which carries through to the finish. Speaking of the finish, it's intense, persistent and has more forceful and obvious spice notes. Not surprisingly as with many well made Italian wines this offering is built to pair with food. Spit roasted lamb with rosemary would by my first choice. Failing that, other grilled or roasted meats will be a fine choice as well.

As with the wines from sister winery Villa Poggio Salvi, this selection has excellent acidity and balance. The oak influence is detectable but not obtrusive, adding complexity as it should. This wine will age effortlessly for at least a decade, probably a bit longer.

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Up Next: Biondi Santi- 2001 Brunello di Montalcino

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Poggio di Salvi - 2000 Brunello di Montalcino

The third wine from Poggio Di Salvi I'm looking at is the first of two Brunellos. The other one is from Biondi Santi itself. Notes on that are coming up over the next few days. Brunello stands with Barolo and Barberesco as one of the triumvirate of most esteemed Italian Wines. There are restrictions on varietal, aging and the like on all of these wines to make sure, among other things, that quality in these regions stays consistent. All three can be tremendous wines with terrific aging potential when done right. The 2000 Poggio di Salvi Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The grapes chosen for this particular offering are from a group of south west facing vines, all at more than 1,100 feet above sea level. It spent 30 months in Slavonian oak barrels and a minimum of 6 months in bottle before its release. Approximately 6,000 cases of this wine are made each year. This has a suggested retail price in the mid $70's but can be found for closer to $60.

This 2000 Brunello is incredibly perfumed with notes of violets, leather, cherry and cedar. From the first sip onward dried fruit notes, including sour cherry and red raspberry, are among the hallmark characteristics of this wine. Vanilla appears as a subtle undertone throughout. The finish on this wine is very long and persistent; spice, earth and fruit making their presence known. This will be a good match for mushroom risotto, strong cheeses, and slow-cooked, full flavored meats.

The 2000 Poggio di Salvi Brunello di Montalcino is built with layer upon layer of complexity. It evolves throughout an evening, revealing an impressive structure, refined power and elegance.

What I like best about his Brunello is that it's full flavored, rich and mouth-filling while never straying close to being too big, or in your face, in style. It is in fact impeccably balanced with tremendous acidity. Between that and the rich fruit, this wine has a nice long shelf life ahead of it. This promises to improve for the next 10-12 years and drink well for 5 or more after that, if not longer. At $60 or so this may not be a choice as an everyday drinker for most people. However, this is a great one to tuck away for a holiday or special occasion.

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