Friday, October 28, 2011

2007 Taverna II Lagarino Di Dionisio Basilicata IGT

Ahhh...Cheapskate Wednesday, what a wonderful holiday!  For those of you who are unaware, Cheapskate Wednesday is an event by Wines Till Sold Out ( where they go though all their leftover stock and put them up every 15 minutes (or till sold out) throughout the day on a Wednesday.  Well, this past Wednesday was of the Cheapskate variety, so I ended up buying 12 different wines to share among friends and the office wine club, and shockingly, the first 7 arrived at my door today!  As such, I am enjoying the first of my fruits tonight, the 2007 Taverna Il Lagarino Di Dionisio Basilicata!

If you're unfamiliar with this Italian wine, you're not alone, as I've never heard of it either, but what the heck, I'll try anything once.  The wine hails from the Basilicata region of Italy, which if you think of the "boot" it's right between the heel and the toe, so it has the interesting position of touching two seas, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea (Gulf of Taranto) to the southeast.  Being so far south from the more famous Italian wine regions, the Basilicata has some very interesting history.  The region is only known for one kind of grape, Aglianico del Vulture, which derives its name from a bastardization of the word "Hellenic" or Greek, and Mount Volture.  Interestingly enough, there are no grapes native to the region, but the variety so prominent here were planted by the Greeks when they settled the area in pre-Roman times, so these grapes have been made into wine long before the native varieties to the north!

Il Lagarino di Dionisio is primarily a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which certainly shows up in the color and flavor of the wine.  It is during the second fermentation that Aglianico del Vulture grapes are added to the blend, giving it a unique character compared to similar blends.  The wine is a deep ruby color with a nose of soft berries, chocolate and tobacco.  The taste is dry, yet has a rather complex, nuanced flavors throughout, with rising fruit flavors intermingled with a spicy earthiness.  The delicate tannins create a lush mouthfeel and smooth finish.  This wine is not your typical Italian red, but I think it would go with a variety of Mediterranean cuisine, though tonight I think I'll enjoy it with some penne alla vodka, as the spiciness of the wine might be the perfect compliment for a sweet creamy sauce.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.0, which would have easily been higher, but for the price at $14.  So look for this one on WTSO, or at your local wine merchant and try a different taste of Italian wine!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Pair of Chilean Cabernets

Ok, I'll admit it, I like cheap wine!  Not like I've not taken up drinking from paper bags, nor have I splurged on a case of Boone's Farm, but I always love finding a nice drinking wine for a price that doesn't make you feel bad for drinking every day.  Now color me ignorant, but I had always know Chile as a big exporter of copper and agricultural commodities, but I was surprised to find out they are the the world's fifth largest exporter of wine and the eighth largest producer of wine.  I suppose that shouldn't have been surprising given its proximity to Argentina (who loves a good Malbec?) and the wonderful coastal terrain that should be ideal for wine making.

So about a month ago, I embarked on my South American journey when I purchased a case of 2009 Chilensis Riserva Cabernet Sauvignon from my friends at G.B. Russo's for only $84 less a $15 mail in rebate (did I ever send that in?), and I've been drinking it off an on since then, just opening a bottle or two during the week as my everyday drinking wine.  The Chilensis comes from the Colchagua Valley of Chile, which is in the southern part of the Rapel Valley, south of Santiago and to the west of San Fernando.  The area is known for it's Cabernet, Carménère, Syrah and Malbec.  This Cabernet is drinking quite well despite it's youth, displaying a nose of black cherry, leather and spice.  For taste, this wine has very structured tannins resulting in a smooth, dry taste with a luscious mouthfeel.  Overall a great wine for grilled meats, heavy Italian dishes (I'm enjoying it tonight with some linguine and arrabbiata sauce with Italian sausage).  Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8, which is only made better by it's super $7 price tag.  My only complaint about the wine is the lack of a natural cork, though I suppose the screw cap makes it easier to drink throughout the week.

The second wine from Chile is the Cono Sur (get it? Cono Sur, Connoisseur, nice play on words) from the Central Valley just south of Santiago.  Cono Sur is an interesting winery, with a bicycle on the label it shows the concern they have for the environment and sustainable viticulture.  In fact many of their wines are certified organic, however this basic Cabernet is not.  Even so, it benefits from the same environmentally conscious practices that show up in the quality of the wine.  I first tasted this wine at Russo's in a comparison with 2010 organic monastrell and 2008 Groth Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet (talk about big shoes to fill!) and this one stood up quite well, even to a legendary Napa cab.  The wine is much more fruit forward than the Chilensis, with a nose of blackberry and currant, and a hint of cedar and tobacco.  The taste is like a big bold California Cab, much different than the Chilensis, this was a more fruity, in-your-face wine, making it a perfect with spicy dishes, or hearty beef roasts.  This would also be ideal for a nice cheese course, particularly with some of the stronger cheeses.  Again, this was a very nice wine, easy drinking and a quality that belies it's $8 price tag (though it was on sale, regularly it's $11).  Overall I would rate this one an 8.5 as I just liked it a little better than it's Chilean cousin (though it still has the same problem with the screw cap!).

So if you haven't already, you should open your heart to the beauty of Chilean wines, they are solid quality and an affordable price.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

2006 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Well, it's hot and sunny out today, perhaps a last gasp of summer before the Fall truly gets a foothold.  So you'd expect a lighter bodied red for such a summery day, but who ever said I was predictable?  Tonight I cracked open a bottle of 2006 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps a rebellious response to so many young cabs (e.g. less than 4 years old) I've been drinking lately.

The wine is a beautiful deep ruby color, and somewhat opaque.  The nose is somewhat earthy, with hints of leather and tobacco, and something else I can't quite wrap my mind around, perhaps licorice?  Maybe I should just leave it as a generic "spice" but there is definitely something else there.  The taste is surprisingly fruit forward, with strong flavors of cherry, mixed with a hint of cedar and very elegant tannin structure giving it an exquisitely smooth and dry finish. 

I must admit, for a Napa Valley cab, this wasn't the big, bold, overpowering wine I might have expected.  Instead, this is a much more structured and balanced wine that I think will draw out the flavors of the food it accompanies.  Tonight, I am pairing this wine with some linguine with red sauce, fresh Italian sausage and sweet red and yellow peppers, and I expect this wine will perfectly accent such a flavor rich dish, particularly once it opens up a bit as I am cooking!  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it might have been higher, but for the price.  I got this one from for a discounted price of just $25, which is still a little steep for today's frugality, but you have to splurge sometimes right? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

2008 Liberty School Cuvee

Ok, I will fully admit now that I've been a total and complete slacker on my wine blog, part of it's due to not drinking a whole lot of interesting wines lately, but also the fact that I have been super busy.  With what, I'm not so sure, since I can't recall accomplishing much over the last few weeks!

Tonight I am reviewing the Liberty School 2008 Cuvee, an interesting blend that I've never tried before.  In the past I've tried Liberty School's cabernet sauvignon and was a pretty big fan, a nice bold cab at an awesome price.  So I happened upon this wine at my regular rounds to G. B. Russo's in Grand Rapids and it was on sale for something like $10, which is sure to get me to try new things.  Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed.

The Liberty School Cuvee comes from Paso Robles, on the central coast of California, and a place where some of the most wonderful Zinfandels come.  But this wine is not a Zin, but an up and coming blend (which apparently is becoming a big deal in the central coast, who knew?).  This wine is a blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier, making it so close to the fine blends from the south of France that I have so come to adore.

This wine is a lighter style that is really perfect for summer, or a summery 80-degree afternoon in early October!  It's light in color, but crystal clear, with a nose that exhibits clear fruit aromas of cherry, blackberry and currant and a hint of smokiness.  The taste was lighter and fruit forward, but nonetheless complex.  With flavors of cherry, strawberry and plum combined with hints of black pepper and anise, I was surprised by the soft tannins and resulting smooth dry finish reminiscent of the fine blends of the Rhone Valley.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, particularly given the $10 price tag!  Try some today with a grilled salmon steak or perhaps a nice pork tenderloin with some freshly grilled summer squash!