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Sparkling Wine

South Africa’s Simonsig celebrates 50 Years of Wine Making

South Africa’s Simonsig celebrates 50 Years of Wine Making

2018 marks 50 years of winemaking for The Malan Family. They’ve been making wine outside Stellenbosch under the Simonsig Family Vineyards label since 1968. Just two years later, in 1970 they introduced their first red. They’ve continued to push the quality envelope over time and widen their portfolio with complementary offerings when and where they fit in well. Their flagship wine remains Chenin Blanc but that is in a sense the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the breadth their portfolio offers.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to taste their wines alongside members of the Malan family and winemaking team on a number of occasions. Recently however I sampled some of their wines in an entirely different manner. To mark the occasion of their 50th one of the events they hosted was a virtual wine tasting. Members of the family and winemaking team sat in a room in South Africa and a number of participating journalists tuned in over YouTube and tasted along from our homes or offices.

There’s a richness and diversity to their portfolio that becomes apparent when tasting a number of their wines side by side. They have several Sparkling wines in their lineup and these are a bit of a secret weapon as they’re not the most famous wines they make, but they’re uniformly well made, delicious and solid, or better values. Tasting two distinct expressions of Pinotage side by side is a good way to see the range of this grape. And the Chenin Blanc stands as one of the outstanding white wine values in the world. During the chat I paired the wines below with Indian Cuisine which was a terrific match.

Simonsig Kaape Vonkel Brute Rosé ($25)

This Brute is composed of Pinot Noir (64%), Pinotage (34%), and Pinot Meunier (2%).  From the lovely pink hue through the above average finish everything about this offering is impressive. Fresh red fruit and bits of spice dot the nose. The palate is fruity and delicate. Bits of biscuit appear on the finish.

Simonsig 2017 Chenin Blanc ($14)

This is composed entirely of Chenin Blanc. One vintage after another this wine is a steal. It’s delicious, food friendly, refreshing, and a great example of Chenin Blanc. It leads with a massive nose loaded with tropical, citrus and fleshy yellow fruit aromas. All of those elements translate to the palate along with bits of spice. The mellifluous finish features a continuing burst of fruit. Racy acid keeps everything in check.

Simonsig 2015 Pinotage ($18)

This cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault was created in South Africa in the 1920’s. Simonsig released their first in 1970. Red and black fruits are joined by hints of tar on the nose. The palate is stuffed with black cherry, raspberry and baker’s spices. Sour red and black fruits round out the finish. This offering is a great match for nearly anything you pull from your grill.

Simonsig 2015 Redhill Pinotage ($38)

This offering, made up of 100% Pinotage, is a barrel selection of wines aged in entirely new oak. Black plum and spice are at the core of the aromatics. Black fig, cherry and bits of Raspberry drive the palate. The finish is long and somewhat lusty with black fruits, tinged by red continuing in droves. This wine is a perfect accompaniment to hearty dishes and will work phenomenally with smoked meats of any sort.

Simonsig 2015 Frans Malan ($38)

This blend is named after their founder. It’s brings together Pinotage (67%), Cabernet Sauvignon (29%), and Merlot (4%).  They’ve been making this wine since 1991. Aromas of red cherry, raspberry and plum are evident along with a solid core of spices. Sour red and black fruits underpin the mélange of sweeter red fruits on display through the palate. The palate shows off hints of baker’s chocolate and earth.

10 Outstanding Current Release Wines

10 Outstanding Current Release Wines

The myriad of wines hitting store shelves on a daily basis can be dizzying. Among them are wines at nearly every possible level of quality and intent. Most important of course is whether the wine is any good. Assuming it is good, does it fit your budget and needs.  I just tasted through just more than 4 dozen wines looking for a few good bottles to stand out.

Last Minute Wine Gift Ideas

Last Minute Wine Gift Ideas

The Holidays aren’t almost here, they’re here, NOW! And if you’re like most people there are a handful of loved ones that you still need to buy a gift for. The good news is there’s still time to get them a nice bottle of wine. Just because it’s last minute, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put thought into it.

The Bird is Thirsty! 9 Wines for Thanksgiving That Provide Value

The Bird is Thirsty! 9 Wines for Thanksgiving That Provide Value

Thanksgiving, with its myriad of flavors and overload of food is mere days away. And while some look at wine pairing for so many flavors and textures as a challenge, I think it’s a whole lot of fun. Drink what you like and see what it works with and what it doesn’t work with.  The bottom line is that you should have fun and enjoy the holiday. 

Mionetto IL Prosecco, D.O.C. Prosecco

bottles_il-160x533Mionetto IL Prosecco D.O.C. Prosecco. This offering is made entirely of Glera. All of the fruit is sourced in the Veneto. After pressing the must was separated from the skins. Secondary fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using the Charmat method. This wine is finished with a crown cap rather than a cork. The cap is a traditional closure for Prosecco in the Veneto. The suggested retail price is $14. Mionetto, which was founded in 1887, make 5 distinct Prosecco’s and works with many small farmers in the area. This is an impeccably fresh Prosecco from the word go. Apple, spice and white flower aromas emanate from the lively nose. Bartlett pear, Gala apple, hints of stone fruit and a host of spices fill the palate which is has lots of flavor. Lemon curd, brioche and white pepper are all in evidence on the finish which lingers persistently.

I love the look of the bottle including the crown cap. It lends an air of ease and casual fun to this wine. But the visuals would be unimportant if the contents of the bottle weren’t so delicious. It’s really tasty by itself as an aperitif or welcome wine but it would also be an excellent choice for brunch. While it’s loaded with appealing flavors there is also an inherent lightness to the body that makes it easy to keep drinking. Chill a couple, the first one will be gone before you know it.

Rotari 2005 Flavio Talento Brut Riserva (DOC)

rotariEach year Gambero Rosso visits the United States and hosts the Tre Bicchieri tastings in several American cities. What they’re showcasing is all of the best, most highly regarded wines from Italy the previous year. I’ve been attending the tasting in New York for the last seven or so years, and I can honestly say there isn’t an annual large-scale tasting I look forward to more. The breadth of excellent Italian wine is stunning. Whether you want to focus on a particular grape or style, or your preference is to wander around and survey the bounty, you’re more than likely to find something delicious at every turn. So when a wine or wines really make a strong impression amid such an imposing gathering, it’s noteworthy. This year one of my single favorites was a beautiful sparkling wine from Rotari, head over to my column at The Daily Meal to read about it.

Banging Bubbly for New Years Eve

I’m a firm believer that most of us should be drinking sparkling wine more often. It can be versatile with food, often delicious on its own and quite frankly just plain fun. That said the one day we all seem to agree on when it comes to Sparkling Wine consumption is New Years Eve. With that in mind here are three that I tried recently and really enjoyed. One of them falls into the traditional category of classic Champagne. The other two are new world entries, one traditional in style and intent, and the other leaps and bounds in a different direction. Most importantly each of them is unique and delicious. Paringa - 2012 Sparkling Shiraz. This wine is composed entirely of Shiraz. The fruit was sourced from 14 year old vines. This sparkler saw a short window of time in French oak. 10,000 cases of this Sparkling Shiraz were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $17.99. Black raspberry aromas lead a huge nose that is fruity and floral. If the nose of a wine could be compared to an invitation, this one is welcoming you to a party that is fun and boisterous. The palate is studded with vibrant black fruit flavors; blackberry and raspberry are most prominent. Molasses, anise, black cherry and a mélange of spices are all present in the above average finish. The bottom line here is that the Paringa Sparkling Shiraz is a fun and delicious wine. Pair it with dessert, a burger or drink it by itself, each alternative will work.

Mumm Napa - Brut Prestige was made from a combination of Pinot Noir (51%), Chardonnay (46%), Pinot Meunier (2%), and Pinot Gris (1%). The first three grapes are the classic triumvirate most often associated with Sparkling Wine; The Pinot Gris is something out of the standard realm that they have added. Fermentation took place primarily in stainless steel. 18 months of aging on yeast followed. This widely available Brut style wine has a suggested retail price of $22. Bits of citrus and white stone fruits fill the nose this wine. This entry level selection in the Mumm portfolio and it’s a classic Brut. The palate is dry and loaded with fruit and spice. Yeast and biscuit characteristics emerge on the finish which has nice length. While the friendly price makes it an obvious choice for holiday celebrations this wine will go very well with food whether it’s paired with a first course during dinner or alongside brunch, you’ll be pleased with the results.

Perrier-Jouet - Grand Brut (NV). This Champagne was composed from a blend of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (40%), and Chardonnay (20%). After fermentation and racking, more than 300 wines are tasted to assemble this blend. In addition to the current vintage reserve wines from previous vintages amounting to between 10% and 20% are also blended in. The wine is then aged in their estate cellars. This Champagne has a suggested retail price of $50. Aromas of apple, ginger and lemon are all part of the gently expressive nose. Orchard fruit flavors are dominant on the palate along with a core of accompanying spices. Bits of brioche and biscuit are present on the lengthy finish along with lemon zest and white pepper spice. This is a classic example of Brut that shines year after year. It will be a fine accompaniment to lighter foods and also a terrific choice to pop open to celebrate the arrival of 2014.

Drinking more sparkling wine, Champagne or otherwise, is a fine resolution for the new year. Get off on the right foot and finish off 2013 with one or more from this trio, you can't really go wrong here.

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

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

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

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

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

7 Sparkling Wines for the Holidays and Beyond

While I’m a firm believer that Sparkling Wine should be consumed every day of the year and both with and without a meal; there’s no denying that around Holiday time people pop a lot more bubbly. With that idea in mind I recently sat down and tasted close to three dozen examples. Here are the seven I feel the most strongly about recommending and a few words about each. Cachette Blanc de Blanc (NV). This French sparkling wine was made from 100% Airen, a grape which is often associated with Spain. Primary fermentation occurred naturally while the secondary was at controlled temperatures. 2,000 cases of this offering were imported to the US and it has a suggested retail price of $14.99. Bits of ginger and lemon ice aromas are present on the nose of this Burgundian Sparkler. Fresh apples, pear and continued lemon characteristics are all in evidence through the palate which is buoyed by zippy acidity. Plenty of spice and additional citrus elements are in evidence on the finish which is clean, crisp and refreshing. This is a nice Sparkling Wine in the entry level category for those who want something dry. Cachette works well by itself or will also pair with light foods.

Cavicchioli 1928 Sparkling White (NV). This Sparkling Wine was produced using 100% Malvasia from the Modena region of Italy. The family has been producing wine there under their own name since 1928. This offering is widely available in the US and has a suggested retail price of $14.99. Fresh, vibrant stone fruit aromas explode from the nose of this wine. Peach, apricot and bits of mango are all present on the fruity palate. Bits of spice emerge on the finish as the cavalcade of fruit continues. The finish shows off elements of sweetness and enough acidity to keep things in check. This is a very fun wine that will have tons of crowd appeal.

Maison J.J. Vincent Cremant de Bourgogne (NV). This sparkling wine from Burgundy was made using 100% Chardonnay. The fruit for this selection was hand picked in the earliest stages of harvest. This wine is available all over the US and has a suggested retail price of $23.99. Bits of pineapple, almond and hazelnut emerge from the nose of this wine along with a touch of lemon zest. Granny Smith apple leads the charge through the palate accompanied by bits of brioche and a firm undercurrent of yeast. Minerals, white pepper and nutmeg are all present on the finish along with a wisp of fresh ginger. There is a terrific depth of palate, purity of fruit and solid length here. It is a fresh, lively and elegant wine for the price.

Gustave Lorentz Cremant s’Alsace Rosé (NV). 100% Pinot Noir from the Alsace region of France was used to make this sparkling Rosé. This offering was vinified using the traditional Methode Champenoise. 2,500 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $24.99. Strawberry, vanilla and fresh cream aromas burst forth from the nose of this Sparkling Rosé. The mouth feel here is absolutely beautiful and layered with red fruits, spice and all buoyed by a creaminess that continues though the generous, persistent, and gently layered palate. This selection would be a great choice to pair with a holiday brunch. It’s also absolutely delectable on its own. A very nice value.

Ferrari Perlé 2004 Blanc de Blancs. This Vintage Sparkling wine was made entirely from Chardonnay grapes harvested in Trento Italy. The fruit came from hillside vineyards. Select yeasts were utilized and this wine was allowed to mature on them for roughly 5 years. Ferrari has been making this offering since the 1971 vintage. It has a suggested retail price of $35. Hazelnut and apple aromas abound on the nose here. A potpourri of apple characteristics dominate the palate with yellow delicious, granny smith and gala shining through the most prominently along with wisps of nutmeg. Hints of cream and biscuit-laden goodness emerge on the lengthy finish along with copious spice notes. This is an elegant and impressively complex wine for its price point.

Ferrari Rosé (NV). This wine was produced using a blend of Pinot Noir (60%) and Chardonnay (40%). It was vinified using the Classic Method. The Ferrari family has been producing this release since 1969. It has a suggested retail price of $37. Wild strawberries, crème fraiche and toasted almond aromas emerge from the lovely nose of this offering. Red cherry, hints of raspberry and fresh strawberry notes are all part of the refreshing and lively palate. Yeast and spice notes emerge on the finish which has solid length. This is a fairly light bodied wine with refined dept. It’s precise and graceful. The Ferrari Rosé is beautiful on its own and will work well with light foods.

Pol Roger Brut Reserve “White Foil” (NV). This offering is a blend of equal parts Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Only first pressed wine is used for this cuvee. Fermentation occurs in stainless steel. The final blend is always composed of at least two vintages. This widely available Champagne has a suggested retail price of $49.99. This Non Vintage Brut begins with an impressive nose layered with toasted hazelnut, ginger, honey, almond, lemon ice and a fair dollop of yeast. Continued lemon characteristics are joined by stone fruits such as white peach and apricot as well as a bevy of spices on the impressive and deeply complex palate. The crispy finish has terrific length; spice notes, bits of yeast and citrus elements  reverberate on the back of the throat long after the last sip is swallowed. This continues to be an excellent example of NV Brut for its price category.

This is a broad range of wines that will suit a variety of taste buds. I feel that each of them represents a very good value in its respective category. Buy these wines with confidence, they will improve your holiday celebration or any random Tuesday night you pop the corks. Happy Holidays!

The State of Chilean Wines Today: Quality, Value, and Diversity

The State of Chilean Wines Today: Quality, Value, and Diversity

Cabernet Sauvignon was king when I first started drinking Chilean wines some 20 years ago. And not just Cabernet in general, but specifically bargain priced Cabernet. Most wine drinking folks I know rifled through bottles of $6 or so Cabernet Sauvignon looking for gems; we found quite a few. And for many people that’s the lingering impression of Chilean Wine. The trouble is it’s no longer a valid image. Sure you can still find a bargain and some of them are Cabernet Sauvignon, but there is so much more Chilean wine on U.S. shelves deserving your attention and your dollars that it would be a real shame to limit yourself. I knew this before I went to Chile last week. So one of my goals in visiting was to verify it and see what they had going on that might be less obvious from 5,000 miles away. So I’ve compiled a handful of strong impressions of Chilean Wines gleamed from the trenches.

Argentina gets the attention but Chile makes some ass kicking Malbec: It’s Argentina’s signature grape so they should be at the forefront. In some ways they are, the general public thinks about Argentina first for Malbec. Some of them are terrific, but unfortunately way too many examples are made in an overtly fruit forward style with a lackluster body and no finish to speak of. I was a little surprised with the number of Malbecs I got to taste in Chile. While I knew it was there, its presence is larger than I would have guessed. More importantly the ones I tasted where almost all uniformly well made. By and large they were elegant, balanced and well proportioned. Often times they were made from old vine fruit. I hope we start seeing Chilean Malbec on our shelves in reasonable numbers soon.

Tiers baby: I’ve often written about wineries like Rodney Strong in Sonoma County whose tiered approach to their portfolio is consumer friendly. This is true in a very large percentage of Chilean Wineries. They often have 3 or 4 tiers of wine. Often the entry-level wines retail for around $10 on our shelves and they have a top-level that might reach into the $30’s and $40’s, as well as occasionally higher. In between are wines in the teens and $20’s. What’s remarkable is that there is more often than not quality, value, and diversity to be had at each tier. In Chile wineries that produce what we view as very large quantities of wine often do so at a high level. One of the main reasons for this is simple: estate fruit. By owning the vineyards outright or having fruit under long-term contract they have a say in precisely how the vineyards are maintained. This can (and often does) lead to high quality in the bottle at each price point. The intent of a producer’s $8 Sauvignon Blanc and their $20 one are often quite different as are their appeals and projected end user. But what's important is getting value regardless of price; in Chile that is often the case.

There are some delicious small production wines being made: Sure there are lots and lots of excellent Sauvignon Blancs coming from Chile and some tasty Pinot Noirs now too, but that’s not all. I had the opportunity to taste a delicious and marvelously dry Gewürztraminer made by Nimbus (part of the Santa Carolina Family of wines), as well as a lovely sparkling wine from Cono Sur to name a couple.  Viognier is making some ripples in Chile too and hopefully before long we’ll see a greater number of them available in the US as well. I've mentioned a few whites but the same can be said for reds. More than one example of varietal Petit Verdot I had was lovely as were a couple of tastes of Carignan. In some cases these wines aren't on our shelves in the US yet, but they’re important to mention for the coming diversity and quality they represent.

Blends will set Chile apart: Almost every winemaking culture has some blends. In places like Bordeaux they’re everything. In a lot of other places, well quite frankly they’re doing their best to mimic Bordeaux. Certainly Chile works to make great wine and learning lessons from places like Bordeaux or Napa to name two examples is part of the equation. But I also got the very strong sense that Chile is happy to be writing their own rule book when it comes to blends. Sure some of them contain the usual suspects of Bordeaux varietals. However grapes like Carménère that have been marginalized or fallen by the wayside in Bordeaux often steal the show in Chile. Additionally with red blends Syrah often makes a mark too as well as some others. Some of the most impressive wines from Chile I’ve tasted over the last 5 years have been blends. This remained constant on my trip last week where I tasted lots of delicious blends. It’s important to note that with blends like with varietal wines there are values at many price levels.

Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon can still be a great value: While there are no longer boatloads of awesome deals on $6 Cabernet Sauvignon there are still many deals to be had. Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile when it’s grown in the right spot and treated properly in the winery can blow away a lot of countries on QPR. What I found on this trip is that the Cabernets in the $15-$25 range were particularly noteworthy in terms of value. These are balanced wines that are often perfect for everyday enjoyment as well as drinking over the next few years. At a higher cost there are some truly age-worthy wines. One example was the Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Rita. We tasted both the current release (2009) and a 15 year old bottle (1997). Jameson Fink, a fellow writer who was on the same trip wrote about this particular experience and it’s well worth a read.

Diversity is King of Chile now: Everywhere we went there was something unique to taste. In some cases it was a Sparkling Rosé made from an almost lost grape. Sometimes it was a Moscato that stunned us all by how lovely and dry it was. On one occasion it was an Old Vine Sauvignon Gris. These are just a couple of examples. Chilean winemakers are experimenting in the vineyards with new farming techniques as well as plantings of new varietals or the reclamation of abandoned old vineyards. In the Winery they’re also experimenting with how they utilize oak, what they blend together and frankly just about every decision they make. What that means to us is we’re going to get to taste a wide swath of different wines from Chile.

In short I was pretty knocked out by what they have going on in Chile. I’ve really enjoyed drinking the wines from there for a long time now. But in 2012 instead of thinking of them for one thing, I think of Chile for an ever widening variety of different varietals, blends and more. Grab some Chilean wines and taste the quality, value and diversity I was lucky enough to witness firsthand.

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.

Cupcake Vineyards - Prosecco D.O.C. (NV) / 2010 Angel Food

Cupcake Vineyards is based in California but sources fruit all over the world. Whether it’s Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or Malbec from Argentina they look to key spots for particular grapes when acquiring fruit. Over the last couple of years I’ve had their wines on numerous occasions and have found that they’re delivering consistent quality in wines that retail for under $15. Today I’ll look at two whites that would both be perfectly suited to serve on Valentines Day. And with the prices so reasonable, there’s no reason not to grab both, it is a holiday after all. The Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco D.O.C. (NV) was produced using 100% Glera grapes. This wine was made utilizing the Charmat method. 20,000 cases of this sparkling wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $13.99. White melon and citrus aromas emerge from the nose of this Prosecco. This wine has a lovely mouth-feel and a fresh lively palate that shows off honeydew, stone fruits and citrus plentifully. The finish is crisp and refreshing with a pleasing final lemony note that begs you back for additional sips. This is a light and delightful Prosecco that drinks beautifully all by itself but will also work nicely with appetizers, a cheese course or certain desserts. The Cupcake Prosecco would be a nice choice to either begin or end the Valentine’s Day celebration with.

The Cupcake Vineyards 2010 Angel Food was produced using fruit sourced throughout California. This wine is a proprietary blend of white varietals with the largest contribution coming from Chardonnay. Each varietal was crushed and fermented separately after which the final blend was assembled. The blended wine was then barrel aged. 10,000 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $13.99. Yellow Delicious and Granny Smith Apple aromas are omnipresent on the nose of this 2010 blend where they’re joined by a bevy of baker’s spices.Bartlett pear, vanilla bean, continued apple characteristics, clove and nutmeg are each in evidence throughout the palate of the 2010 Angel Food. The finish is lush and creamy with a pleasing conclusion that made me want to keep on drinking. This wine is fruity and gently layered. While it’s a completely different wine of course, Angel Food is as good of a value as the Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc which has impressed me for several years now. For right around $10 if you shop around this wine is a party in a bottle. There are countless wines in the “white blend” category coming out of California. Angel Food is going to be hard to beat on QPR. It’s a super appealing wine that will work equally well on its own or paired with food. Angel Food knocks out long standing blends, like “Conundrum” that sell for twice as much, on value. Angel Food is a great choice to serve on Valentine’s Day with your main meal.

Both of these wines continue the growing trend of Cupcake Vineyards providing value driven wines that are both appealing and well made in their respective categories. By sourcing fruit all over the world they’re building a portfolio of diverse wines affordable for everyday drinking that consumers can count on. So whether it is for Valentine's Day or it's next tuesday with some takeout, I highly reccomend considering these releases from Cupcake Vineyards as everyday selections or house wines. Your tastebuds will thank you.

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.

Gustave Lorentz - Cremant d’Alsace (NV) / 2009 Pinot Noir Le Rosé / 2007 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim

Alsace France is a region that can certainly inspire tons of passion from wine lovers. White varietals rule the day here. When they are from excellent vineyards and made with care they can be nothing less than amazing. I recently tasted through most of the portfolio from Gustave Lorentz. This Alsatian family has been making wine since 1836. It was a pleasure and an eye-opener to samples these wines. As is typical of Alsace the majority of their offerings are white with a few reds in the mix as well. Both still and sparkling wines are part of the mix. I’ve liked each of the selections I’ve tasted from this producer but here are three diverse ones that really set themselves apart.

First up is the Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace (NV). This sparkling wine is composed of Chardonnay (33%), Pinot Blanc (33%) and Pinot Noir (33%). This offering was produced using the classic “Methode Champenpoise.” 4,500 cases of this wine were bottled and it has a suggested retail price of $24.99

The nose of this non vintage Sparkling Wine is remarkably fresh and lively with apple and green melon aromas of particular note. Brioche, juicy orchard fruits and bits of stone fruit are all part of the palate along with spice and mineral notes. The finish shows an inherent creaminess along with touches of candied lemon zest. This is a really nice sparkling wine for the money. It drinks well on it’s own but will work even better paired alongside light foods.

Next up is the Gustave Lorentz 2009 Pinot Noir Le Rosé. The grapes for this wine were picked as ripe as possible. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir. The fruit was sourced from vineyards that feature clay and limestone heavy soils. 2,000 cases of this Rosé were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99.

Fresh, ripe Bing cherry aromas drive the nose of this 2009 Rosé. Strawberries, cherries and vanilla characteristics are all at play through the palate. These are joined by hints of darker berry fruit and a touch of candied cherry. The darker fruit elements emerge a bit more forcefully in the finish along with a touch of white pepper. This wine is light and refreshing as most well made Rosé should be. But it also features more depth, weight and complexity than the average example. This wine will pair really well with light foods. A fruit and cheese plate would be perfect. Of course it should be chilled, but resist the temptation to over-chill this beauty.

The final wine in this trio is the Gustave Lorentz 2007 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim. The fruit for this wine comes from the namesake classified Grand Cru site. This offering is all Gewürztraminer. The soils there feature heavy clay and limestone components. The vines average between 30 and 50 years of age. Fruit for this offering was hand picked and the whole grapes were pressed and this juice was separated from the free run juice. Fermentation took place with select and native yeasts in mature oak vats. It was aged in these vats for 11 months prior to bottling. 1,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $59.99.

Aromas of apple, yellow melon, vanilla and a touch of crème fraiche fill the expressive nose of this 2006 Gewürztraminer. Apricot and yellow peach notes are in abundance throughout the palate. A nice spice component featuring white pepper, cardamom and nutmeg is present as well. Lot’s of sweet yellow and white fruits continue through the impressively long and persistent finish which shows off a bit of a honey. In addition to the lengthy finish the purity of fruit is what strikes me as most impressive about this Gewürztraminer. This wine is delicious now, both on its own and paired with spicy foods in particular. However don’t hesitate to lay it down for the next 8-12 years.

This is a delicious trio of wines from Gustave Lorentz. That said don’t hesitate to try others with their name on the label either. I’ve sampled quite a few and each has been a winner.

Maison J.J. Vincent - NV Cremant de Bourgogne

Sparkling wine comes in all shapes and sizes. France of course has a legendary tradition when it comes to this style of wine. Today I’ll look at selection from Maison J.J. Vincent. The Maison J.J. Vincent Cremant de Bourgogne was produced from fruit sourced in the Winery’s native Burgundy. More specifically the fruit comes from the southern reaches. This offering is composed entirely of Chardonnay. The fruit was handpicked during the earliest part of harvest. Vinification was accomplished using traditional methods for Sparkling Wine. This offering has a suggested retail price of $19.99.

Aromas of freshly sliced apples fill the nose of this non vintage sparkling wine. A gentle wisp of ginger chips in as well. The palate is fresh and crisp with yellow and green apple flavors playing vital roles. A bit of hazelnut emerges as well along with light touches of lemon zest. The finish shows off mineral and spice characteristics as well as tart apple flavors. This is a refreshing wine that has crisp acidity. It drinks well by itself and is also an excellent food wine.

This French Sparkler is a very nice value for $19.99. If you shop around you’ll find it for a bit less. Its complexity belies its price point. Whether you pair this with a Sunday Brunch or simply share it with friends during a casual get together you’re going to be drinking a delicious offering that you’re likely to buy again and again when you realize what a terrific wine you got for your money.

Villa Sandi - Prosecco “Il Fresco” Spumante DOC Brut Treviso

I don’t need an excuse to drink Sparkling Wine, but warm weather certainly gets me to think about it more often. And when I’m thinking about a specific type or style of wine that means I’m much more likely to reach for it as well. Casual warm weather gatherings call for something fun. And fun is definitely one of the words I associate with Prosecco. Today I’ll look at a Prosecco from the Veneto that is perfectly primed for warm weather drinking. The Villa Sandi Prosecco “Il Fresco” Spumante DOC Brut Treviso was produced using fruit sourced in Italy’s Veneto region. This offering is 100% Prosecco. After pressing and racking the wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Secondary fermentation with select yeasts occurs at approximately 15 degrees Celsius. Once fermentation is stopped and the wine has had time to settle it’s bottled. This offering has a suggested retail price of $12.99.

Citrus and melon aromas fill the nose of this Prosecco along with bits of orchard fruit and a touch of vanilla bean. The palate shows some hints of flaky biscuit and brioche along with apple notes and a touch of yeast. This finish has good length with crisp acidity. A touch of cream closes things out.

This is a nice Prosecco for the price point. It’s a delicious wine to drink on its own or to pair with light foods. It’s a perfect choice for a warm weather brunch. This wine is refreshing and for its reasonable price point most can afford to drink it regularly. I suggest doing precisely that.

Mumm Napa Valley - Cuvée M

With the end of the year near my mind and my appetite is still pretty focused on Sparkling Wine. Mumm Napa Valley is one of the California producers that’s been providing consistent and well priced Sparkling offerings. They’re a go to producer in California. Today I’ll look at one of their current releases. Sometime soon I’ll also be looking at a couple of selections from GH Mumm as well, so please stay tuned. The Mumm Napa Valley Cuvée M was produced using fruit sourced from over 50 vineyards. This selection is a blend of Chardonnay (48%), Pinot Noir (43%), Pinot Gris (6%), and Pinot Meunier (3%). Each lot was kept separate during the first fermentation. Aging on yeast then occured for approximately 18 months. After final blending and dosage another it’s allowed to resolve itself in bottle for another 3 months prior to release. This offering has a suggested retail price of $20.

Aromas of lemon zest and ginger fill the nose of Cuvée M. Flavors of Asian pear, yellow cling peach, nectarine and recurring wisps of crème fraiche are readily apparent through the medium bodied plate of this wine. Biscuit, brioche, elements of yeast and a wallop of spices all emerge in the substantial finish which lingers well after you swallow the last sip.

Cuvée M from Mumm Napa Valley is an excellent value. It outshines its $20 price point by leaps and bound. While it’s surely delicious on its own, this is precisely the sort of Sparkling wine that comes to mind for me when I have Brunch in mind. When you take into account the modest price, it's also one most can indulge in regularly.

Cupcake Vineyards - NV Brut Rosé

Over the last couple of years Cupcake Vineyards has emerged as an interesting source for wine. They offer an ever increasing, eclectic portfolio of releases sourced the world over that deliver solid (or better) quality at prices that most folks can afford on a regular basis. Today I’ll look at one of their Sparkling Wine efforts. The Cupcake Vineyards Brut Rosé was produced using 100% French Pinot Noir. After gentle pressing the juice is cold fermented, over a couple of weeks, in stainless steel. After the lots are assembled it undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle followed by aging on the lees. It’s then riddled and corked prior to release. The whole process spans approximately 2 years, 10,000 cases of this sparkling wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $15.99.

Things start of with a classic salmon colored hue, lovely and typical for Rosé Sparklers. Aromas of wild strawberry lead the nose underscored by touches of crème fraiche. This wine has a substantial palate that features red cherry, strawberry and an overall mélange of juicy red fruits including watermelon. Wisps of biscuit and ginger are part of the finish along with creamy scone. The finish is noteworthy in its range for both length and structure.

What I love most about this Non Vintage Brut is how versatile it is. It’s delicious sipped by itself but will also pair well with a host of foods both sophisticated and casual. I had this wine alongside a grilled cheese sandwich of Muenster cheese on 12 grain bread; it was a terrific match. The modest price tag makes it a wine you can open any day of the week, the quality makes it something you’ll be happy to serve to guests.

Visiting Domaine Carneros in Napa

Every time I travel to California Wine Country I undergo a lot of internal tussling. Honestly long before I even book a flight I’m thinking about where I want to go to taste wine. There are of course hundreds of options. But making the choice even tougher is the lure of old favorites, sitting on my shoulder and whispering in my ear like a comfortable, well known angel.  There’s something to be said for revisiting something you love, particularly the attraction of new vintages. On the other shoulder sits the unknown. This angel doesn’t look familiar but he whispers to me about unusual delights that I have yet to experience. In the end I try to strike a balance between the two with the unknown angel getting a little more of my attention. Each trip I also attempt to come up with some places I have been meaning to visit but somehow have managed to elude me. I visited one such spot a couple of days ago, Domaine Carneros. I’ve driven past Domaine Carneros more often than I could possibly count, and I’ve had some of their wine before. But for one reason or another I was always passing by on my way somewhere with a clock ticking. I had a 3 PM appointment for a tour and tasting and I arrived in their entryway just before that and was warmly greeted. Moments later a gentleman by the name of Jean Claude came over and introduced himself. He was our guide for the tour, and so much more. I’ve been on many wine tours and it was immediately obvious that this was going to be a noteworthy one. Jean Claude has a passion for his subject, an ability to read his audience that many don’t posses, and enough personal warmth to fill a room. The tour I was on had a total of 10 people on it; Jean Claude managed to connect on some level with every one of them. Along the way he showed us around the facility and told us about the history of Domaine Carneros as well as the Carneros appellation itself. We tasted a quartet of Sparkling Wines on our journey, from their most widely available release, to wines that are a bit harder to come by on store shelves. In short a well planned cross section of their Sparkling Wines. In an engaging and easy to follow manner that never spoke down to anyone Jean Claude went through the production of Sparkling Wine. As we did this we made our way through the facility and saw different parts of it. It was an A to Z on Sparkling Wine that provided good basic knowledge for a newer wine lover but also a level of detail that would hold the attention of a more veteran taster.

When we were finished with the Sparkling wines we sat down in a lovely bar area and Jean Claude guided us through a trio of Pinot Noirs from the Portfolio. He spoke about these as well and we enjoyed them alongside a light snack of nuts.

At the end of the tour I was lucky enough to get a chance to spend time with still Winemaker TJ Evans. He poured me an additional sparkling wine I had yet to taste and then we headed to the barrel room.  Once there TJ showed me some lots of wine with varying age on them. Some were specific clones and others a blend of more than one. I was able to get a real window into his winemaking philosophy and where the Pinot Noir Program at Domaine Carneros is headed. In his time there he’s added a few releases to the line and it looks like he’ll continue to tinker and add things when he feels the fruit justifies it.  After going through some barrels TJ showed me some older wines. While he didn’t make the 2000 and 2001 Pinot Noir he poured for me tasting them was an eye opener as he’s working with the same vines. It’s clear that the fruit those vines produces can make Pinot Noir which has the ability to age.

Taking a tour at Domaine Carneros costs $25 and lasts approximately 90 minutes. In that time you’ll learn quite a bit about the Estate, their wines, Sparkling Wine and Pinot Noir in general and Carneros. We tasted seven wines in that period and they were well spaced out with plenty of time to enjoy and contemplate them. Domaine Carneros is a beautiful property and they make terrific wines, both still and sparkling. If you’re going to be in the Napa area, don’t wait as long as I did, get to Domaine Carneros, it’s well worth your time, effort and money. I should also note that if you don’t have time for a tour there are also numerous tasting options available as well. Check their website for details. My initial instinct was right on, this was a noteworthy tour and visit.

Vino de Fratelli - Prosecco (NV)

Sparkling wine comes in all shapes and sizes, which is good because there are many settings that it’s suitable too. I drink it more casually these days than I used to; more often as well. Whether it’s a starter to a meal, a welcome wine or paired with lighter foods, Sparkling wine can be a great go to choice. Today I’ll look at a Prosecco. The Vino de Fratelli Prosecco is a non vintage selection. This sparkling wine was produced using 100% Prosecco from Veneto Italy. Vinification and fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks over 15-20 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Yeasts and sugar are then added over 20-25 days to reach the chosen amount of bubbles. After chilling and filtering it’s bottled. 1,000 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $14.99. This wine is finished in screw cap.

This Prosecco has a lively nose that shows off a hint of candied apple. Orchard fruits such as continued apple as well as some pear are on display through the palate. Through the whole of the wine there is a creamy, yeasty undertone that provides substance and bite. Ginger spice and white pepper emerge on the finish along with some mineral notes.

This wine is a good value at under $15. I like it on its own but more specifically, this is the kind of sparkler I enjoy pairing with brunch or serving as a welcome wine when guests come over my house. The screw cap closure on this wine makes it easier to save for a day or so in your refrigerator, retaining the bubbles. That’s assuming there’s any of this tasty wine left once you open it and take the first sip.