Saturday, December 24, 2011

2004 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino

Another fine wine from our "Best of" wine tasting, and I can think of no better wine to post about on Christmas Eve.  After all, Christmas itself seems to go so well with Italian food and red wine, so what's better than the classic heart of Italian wine, the greatest wine in Tuscany, and arguably the greatest wine of Italy, Brunello di Montalcino!  This wine, the 2004 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino is a very nice example of this classic Tuscan great, and I can tell you I was not disappointed in the least!

The wine has a garnet color in the glass with a hint of rust color along the edges.  The nose was somewhat "woodsy" which I guess is my technical term for a combination of moss, oak, cedar, earth and tobacco all swirling around.  The taste had some tart cherry, and mild acidity and a subtle spiciness that made for quite a backbone on this wine.  I found the wine itself quite dry, but the mild tannins made for a very smooth finish.  As the wine for the heart of Tuscany, this wine would pair well with many hearty Italian dishes, or if you're bold enough, Bistecca alla Fiorentina!  For those of you unfamiliar, Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a Tuscan style steak about as big as your torso (I exaggerate, but these are big thick steaks) grilled over a wood fire, but if you don't have any 4-inch thick steaks handy, a nice 2-inch thick Porterhouse will do nicely!

This wine was simply delightful, and I would rate it a solid 9, perhaps higher but for the price (this one will set you back in the $30-40 range).  Even so, if you happen to find some online or at your local wine merchant, I suggest buying a bottle or two to enjoy with family and friends.  Tutti a tavola a mangiare!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2008 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine

This is another of our wines from our "Best of" wine tasting, the 2008 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine.  Washington is great at producing wonderful Bordeaux-style blends, and this is an interesting use of excess grapes from other blends in the Walla Walla/Columbia Valley region.  A product of Long Shadows Winery in Walla Walla, this wine is a blend of excess wines used in their signature wine blends from nine winemakers, hence "Nine Hats."

The wine itself is a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec, creating an interesting and smooth wine.  The wine exhibits a deep purple color in the glass with a good structure.  On the nose, it exhibits aromas of the forest, dominated by cedar, moss and tobacco with just the slightest floral hint.  The taste is somewhat abrupt when compared to some of the more mature wines like the Margaux or Brunello we tasted, but on it's own, this wine holds its own.  It's very fruit forward, with flavors of blackberry and cherry, with a mild acidity that holds any sweetness in check.  There is a spicy undertone of pepper and herbs.  The velvety tannins make for a luscious mouthfeel and a long, smooth finish.

For pairings, this wine would be ideal with a grilled steak, or perhaps a classic pot roast with all the classic roasted veggies.  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, with room for improvement as the wine matures.  The 2008 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine would make a great everyday wine, particularly given the price under $20.  I bought this one in a variety pack of wines from my friends at Esquin Wine Sellers out of Seattle, so it might not be available where you live.  If you have an opportunity to buy a bottle, you should certainly try it!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2007 Seven Hills McClellan Estate Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Petit Verdot

Another fine wine from our "Best of" wine club tasting, this one from one of my favorite wine regions, the Columbia Valley of Washington State, in particular, Walla Walla!  The 2007 Seven Hills McClellan Estate Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Petit Verdot is a really interesting wine for so many reasons, not the least being a rare single bottling of a varietal that is normally reserved for blending with many of the find Bordeaux style blends the Columbia Valley has become known for.

I'll admit I had my doubts, after all, what can I expect from a full bottle of wine based on a grape that normally doesn't exceed 20% of a blend?  Well, this wine was delicious and interesting in so many unexpected ways!  The color of this wine was a deep purple, almost inky in appearance, suggesting a wine packed with flavors, and it was.  The nose was somewhat floral, with hints of rose, along with an earthy character denoted by aromas of oak, cedar, tobacco and leather.  On my tasting notes I wrote "evolving" but I don't think this wine is evolving in a traditional sense (i.e. this will mature over the next few years), but rather than it was evolving and changing even as it was in my mouth!  At one moment, tart cherry and licorice, then a spicy smoky flavor, then a little sweetness of plum and cassis, amazing how the flavors can exhibit such complexity.  The tannins provided for a velvety mouthfeel and a long, smooth finish.

For pairings, this wine would be perfect with beef or pork tenderloin or a variety of Mediterranean dishes.  I bought this one from, and as I recall it was around $20, so not a super bargain, but certainly well worth a double sawbuck.  Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, it's still a little young so there's time for it to mature a little more before I open my next bottle.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2006 Grimaldi Luigino e C. SNC Vigna San Biagio Barolo

Another wine from our "Best of" wine tasting, this one a classic from northern Italy, the 2006 Grimaldi Luigino Vigna San Biagio Barolo.  The Barolo is the classic wine from the Piedmont region of Italy, produced from the Nebbiolo grape variety.  In recent years, a number of purists have been disappointed in the quality of Barolos, given the shift toward more modern winemaking techniques which many fans thought diminished the quality and heritage of these wonderful wines.  Fortunately, it seems that the 2006 vintage has sought to recapture some of the past passion of this wine, and I will admit this particular wine is very interesting.

The 2006 Grimaldi Luigino Vigna San Biagio Barolo is of a more subtle style than other Barolos, so if you prefer more powerful, in your face wines, this one is probably not for you.  The wine is lighter in color, with the classic brownish almondine tint along the edges.  The nose presents a bit of rose, berries, tobacco and leather.  The taste bursts with rich fruit, with prune/plum sweetness balanced by some cherry acidity, while the warm tannins undergird a clean, delicate finish.

For pairings, I think this wine would work well with many of the wonderful dishes of the Piedmont region, and particularly I think this would be perfect with a Fontina cheese risotto, as the acidity of the wine plays off the richness of the cheese.  I would rate the one a solid 8, it's an absolutely wonderful wine, but the price leaves a little to be desired – for $45 you can find many truly special wines.  Cin cin!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2007 Tiare Impériale Châteauneuf-du-Pape

You know, I've really come to love the wines of southern France more and more over the last several months.  Whether a nice blend of Grenache from the Longuedoc, or a classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône, these wines are just great expressions of the region.  The 2007 Tiare Impériale Châteauneuf-du-Pape represents the classic aspects of this wine, which dates back to Pope Clement V, the former archbishop of Bordeaux who relocated the papacy to the French city of Avignon in 1308.  As great lovers of wine, the popes of the 70-years of Avignon popes did a lot to promote the wines of Burgundy and the Rhône, and eventually this wine became known as "Vin du Pape" or wine of the pope, to today's Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The wine itself is a blend of 13 different grape varieties, dominated by the classic blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (GSM anyone?).  The wine was somewhat opaque with a beautify reddish purple color.  The nose was somewhat earthy, with hints of tobacco and leather.  The taste was somewhat fruited, with cherries and a bit of licorice.  The tannins were quite mellow for such a young wine, leading to a somewhat soft finish.  Overall, this wine really brought to mind the lovely warm Mediterranean breezes of the Côte d’Azur, and if you can get that feeling from a bottle of wine, it can't be all bad! 

As for pairings, I think this wine would be lovely with a variety of seafood dishes, or even a bouillabaisse for those who are more adventurous!  Overall, this wine was a fairly good value for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I think I bought it from Wines Till Sold Out for under $30.  For my rating, I would put this one at a solid 8, it's a nice example of the wine, but there was definitely room for improvement.  Salut!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2000 Taurian Vineyards Sonoma Zinfandel

This was a fun, last minute addition to our "Best of" wine tasting, just because it was something different.  Granted, for a best of Zinfandel, my personal preference would be one from Lodi, since in my opinion the best Zins come from Lodi, no matter what anyone else thinks!  But this one I wanted to drink since it was the last bottle of a non-consecutive vertical (1995, 1999 and 2000) that I bought from Lot 18.  This offering of three bottles was based on a quantity of wine found in storage since this winery is not longer in operation.  Of the others, I thought the 1995 was a great wine (maybe I got lucky), and the 1999 was undrinkable, so I was hoping this would be more like the '95!

Overall, it was okay, nothing too special or exciting, though it also seemed to be getting past its prime, so this might be our last chance!  The nose on this wine was somewhat alarming, as some in the group described the aroma as a horse in a barnyard, to which I could not really disagree.  I guess we'll just call that earthy.  The taste however was somewhat surprising in a pleasant way, hints of earth, leather and tobacco, mingled with black pepper and ripe cherries made this one an interesting one.  Overall, I have had many other Zinfandels that were far better, and despite the age, this wine was somewhat disappointing, resulting in a 6.5 rating.  Thankfully I don't think this wine can be found anymore, but if you happen upon some, exercise due caution!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Once again, the beauty of Oregon shines through on their Pinot Noirs, and the 2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is no exception!  This was another wine from our "Best of" wine tasting, and of the two Pinots we tried, this one was clearly my favorite.

The wine itself had a rich ruby color, suggesting something a bit heavier for a Pinot, and suggesting this wine might be something special.  The nose was quite earthy, with hints of cedar and the tiniest bit of leather, taking me back to my time living in the Pacific Northwest, the lovely rain forests, hiking near Mount Hood and tasting wine throughout the Willamette Valley.  The wine itself had a complexity that defied its youth, fruit forward, with hints of plum and wild berry, balanced with hints of oak and cedar.  With mild acidity and subtle tannins, this wine makes for a long, smooth finish.

I would easily pair this wine with a variety of seafood dishes from the Pacific coast, but most of all, I can see this wine as a perfect complement to a cedar planked wild salmon at the peak of the season, with fresh steamed asparagus and couscous with toasted pine nuts.  I would easily rate this wine an 8.5, and the fact that you can often find this wine on sale for under $20 makes it an even more impressive find!

2008 Cloudline Pinot Noir

This wine was part of our "Best of" wine tasting, and what's not to love about a Pinor Noir from Oregon?  Now I'll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Pinor Noir, but having lived in Portland for a few years and traveling extensively throughout the Willamette Valley, I have to admit it kinda grows on you!

The 2008 Cloudline Oregon Pinot Noir is not a pure Willamette Valley wine, but is a blend of wine from a variety of Oregon vineyards.  This is one of the lighter Pinot Noirs that I've had, and it tends to have more delicate flavors than some heavier wines.  The wine itself has a nose that is somewhat woodsy, with mild floral aromas, that hints at the lightness.  As for the taste, it's a fruit forward wine with hints of blackberry and an almost honey-like sweetness, with a finish that was somewhat lacking.  This wine is light enough that I would hesitate to pair it with a full meal, instead I think it's an ideal wine for a cheese course, particularly made up soft cheeses that would not overpower the delicate nature of this wine.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7, it's certainly not a "knock your socks off" sort of wine, but for the $12-15 price tag, it certainly is a value among Oregon Pinots!

A wonderful wine tasting

Last night we had a chance to get together with a bunch of us from my office wine club to have a little tasting, and it was a lot of fun!  I always enjoy sharing good wine with friends, and this was a perfect opportunity to share as we get into the holiday season.

There are many ways to do a tasting, whether picking a theme, trying different wines from the same winery, the same type of wine from different wineries or vintages, you get the idea.  Well, our theme yesterday was "the best of" where we went about tasting some of the best wines from various regions, focusing on what each region is known for.  We had Pinot Noir from Oregon, Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, a Barolo and Brunello from Italy, a Margaux from Bordeaux, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from southern France, you get the idea. 

We had a variety of cheeses, crackers, olives and salami to just have some nice snacks as we tasted, and what's not to love about wine and cheese?  And then the wine!  So what did we have?  Here is a list of what we tasted last night:

·         From France:
o   2005 Château La Tour de Bessan Margaux (2005 was a great Bordeaux vintage)
o   2007 Tiare Impériale Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre oh my!)
·         From Italy:
o   2004 Casanuova delleCerbaie Brunello di Montalcino (arguably the best wine produced in Italy, and certainly the best of Tuscany)
o   2006 Grimaldi Barolo (the best of the Piedmont)
·         From California:
o   2006 and 2007 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2007 was a great vintage for Napa Valley Cabs)
o   2000 Taurian Vineyards Sonoma Zinfandel (this one was a last minute addition, just for fun, and to see if it was still drinking all right!)
·         From Oregon:
o   2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (the best Pinot Noir comes from Oregon, and specifically the Willamette Valley)
o   2008 Cloudline Pinot Noir
·         From Washington State:
o   2007 Seven Hills McClellan Estate Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Petit Verdot (this is a varietal that normally is blended, rarely seen in a single bottle, this prized Bordeaux grape should produce a wine to be reckoned with!)
o   2008 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine (Washington is great at producing wonderful Bordeaux-style blends, and this is an interesting use of excess grapes from other blends in the Walla Walla/Columbia Valley region)

I'll begin putting up some reviews today, with more to come over the next couple weeks.  So enjoy a vicarious tasting, but better yet, why don't you try one yourself?  All you need is a couple bottles of wine and a few friends and viola!