Friday, November 30, 2012

2009 Mount Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Over the past couple years, I've really grown to like the wines of the Mount Veeder Winery, particularly their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons (you can see my review of the 2008 vintage here).  In any case, a week or two ago I ordered a case of the 2009 vintage and have decided to give it a whirl.

The wine is like many good Napa cabs, very deep ruby color, almost inky in the glass.  The nose is a wonderfully rich blend of leather, blackberry, cherry and anise that speaks to the richness of the wine, and feel free to let it open up a bit in the glass, my hint is to have a glass or two while I am making dinner, so it's perfect by the time I sit down to eat.  The taste is a lovely fruit forward blend of ripe berries, plum and fresh herbs, giving way to some spicy notes midpalate, as the flavors play against each other and add a bit of complexity.  The nicely structured tannins provide for a long, dry, velvety finish that makes this wine a treat by itself.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 as it's a lovely example of a classic Napa cab at a super price, since I bought this from for only $20!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a rare grilled New York strip, baked potato and steamed asparagus, as the wine has just enough bite to really accent a nice juicy steak.  So it you find this one at your local wine merchant, pick up a bottle, you're in for a nice treat!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2010 L'Ecole No. 41 Wahluke Slope Grenache - Happy Thanksgiving!

So the Thanksgiving holiday is almost done, we've had turkey with all the fixin's, football (in the yard and on TV), a head start on all our Christmas shopping with all those "Black Friday" deals, and hopefully we thought at least a little bit about what we are thankful for, all those spiritual and material blessings that make us wonder what we've done to deserve them.  But enough of the philosophical, you really just want to know what wines I paired with my turkey last Thursday don't you?

Well, you get a treat today, as I am highlighting two wines that I enjoyed with my Thanksgiving dinner.  The first one I enjoyed most of since it's surprising how many people are intimidated by red wine with turkey, even when it's a lighter red like the 2010 L'Ecole No. 41 Wahluke Slope Grenache from the Stone Tree Vineyard!  The color in the glass was a lighter shade of ruby with a nose that had notes of sour cherry, cedar and smoke.  The taste was quite fruit forward with flavors of ripe plum, cherry and strawberry, intertwined with dried herbs and a somewhat earthy quality.  The tannins were quite subdued leading to a very delicate finish. The fruit flavors paired very well with the turkey, which even when perfectly cooked I find can be very bland.

You know how I love L'Ecole, but this one wasn't spectacular, perhaps because I love their bigger reds, but it was the perfect wine for Thanksgiving dinner, so I'll rate it a solid 8, with some room for improvement as it matures.

Now my second wine with dinner was the 2009 Espelt Corali Rosado, much less intimidating as a chilled rose than a red wine for most dinner guests!  This wine was very refreshing, with a nose of pear, strawberry and grass along with a few floral notes.  The taste was delightful combination of melon and peach with hints of fresh herbs with a clean, crisp finish.  Again, the crispness and light fruit made a nice counter to the heaviness of some of our dinner (think stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and the ever popular green bean casserole!) and really made the turkey sing.

This one I would rate a solid 7, as it was a descent wine, but a tremendous value as I bought this on close out from my local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's for only $1.50 + tax!  Less than 2-buck-Chuck!  I'm just glad I bought a few extra for next summer.  So that was my Thanksgiving wine, what did you enjoy with your feast?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2009 Helix Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

So tonight I've decided to relax a bit, and with a chill in the air it would be a perfect evening to light a fire and enjoy the nice warmth of a cabernet sauvignon.  Unfortunately I don't have a fireplace, but I can still enjoy the wine as I light the grill out on the patio!  And for tonight's wine, I've decided on a bottle of the wine club selection from Reininger, a new favorite from Walla Walla that I discovered on my trip last spring, and after a time on the waiting list, I finally became a member of their club!  Helix is the second label from Reininger, offering wonderful wines at a more modest price point.

This wine is a deep purple color in the glass, with an almost inky quality.  The nose exhibits rich fruit notes of ripe cherry, plum and cassis, with a good bit of spice overlaying the fruit.  The taste is very rich, luscious fruit at the outset, with ripe cherry, plum and blackberry flavors, giving way to licorice and dark chocolate midpalate, then bursting into a warmth of black pepper and spice on the long, velvety finish.  It's the finish that really makes this wine a perfect accompaniment to a chilly autumn evening!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8 as I love my Washington wines, and this one was a reasonable value as well, with a list price of $28, the wine club price was only $25, so perhaps not an everyday wine, but a nice wine for the unexpected special occasion.  Tonight I am enjoying this with a rare grilled angus ribeye (see, I had to have a fire in here somehow!) some steamed fresh Brussels sprouts and a jumbo baked potato with all the trimmings.  And for those who worry, I will make up for the red meat, after all I'll be having turkey on Thursday!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hell's Canyon Retriever Red Wine

Tonight I've decided to open one of my vacation wines, a bottle I brought back from a truck stop in Baker City, Oregon of all places (see us wine aficionados can find wine anywhere!), the Hell's Canyon Retriever Red Wine, a non-vintage blend of Merlot (56%), Cabernet Franc (22%), Cabernet Sauvignon (19%) and Syrah (3%).  The winery is located in the Snake River Valley in Caldwell, Idaho, so I probably passed in on the way to Oregon but I didn't stop.  In any case, I stopped at a hotel in Baker City for the night, and went across the street to the truck stop for some chips and saw they had wine, and this bottle with a great image of a Black Lab swimming with a duck in its mouth really caught my eye, so I figured why not buy a bottle?

The color of the wine is a nice ruby red, a little lighter than a lot of Bordeaux style blends I've seen.  The nose is enveloped with aromas of sweet cherry, licorice and cedar, with just the faintest hint of fresh mint.  The taste is actually remarkably well balanced, with ample fruit on the front, laced with ripe cherries and blackberries, giving way to hints of charcoal and fresh herbs midpalate.  The vibrant tannins make for a very crisp, tight finish that could mellow a bit over time, but as it stands marks the perfect yin to the sweet red fruit yang on the front end.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's hands down the best truck stop wine I've ever had!  And as I recall it was a pretty good value too at about $11.  Tonight I am pairing with some butternut squash lasagna that a good friend at work made and brought in for me to try, and a fresh salad.  The wine complements the sweet and earthy flavors of the lasagna quite well, so it looks like I'm going to have a good evening after a long week!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2009 L'Ecole No. 41 Perigee

You know, sometimes you just need to take a step back and smell the roses, or the bouquet on a great glass of wine as the case may be!  It's been a long few weeks of lots of hours at work, and unfortunately those weeks seem to be dragging into months and I could use a break.  Of course with no break on the horizon, I'll take the next best thing, a great bottle of wine.  And tonight we have one of the great ones from my favorite winery of all time, L'Ecole No. 41 and their 30th anniversary edition of the Perigee.  The grapes for the Perigee blend come from the acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard, of which L'Ecole is a partner, originally planted in 1981, it is Certified Sustainable and Salmon Safe.

The wine itself is a classic Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (64%), Merlot (16%), Cabernet Franc (12%), Malbec (4%) and Petit Verdot (4%).  The color in the glass is a rich garnet and the nose brings forth notes of leather, oak and earthy spice, the type of aromas that cause you to enter a state of deep relaxation (at least they do that to me anyway!).  The taste is at once fruity and earthy, with tastes of ripe berries and plums washing over your palate, then giving way to cedar and chalky gravel.  The tannins as a bit more subdued than I've noticed on previous vintages, giving rise to a smooth, deliciously dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, but I'll freely admit my bias towards my favorite winery (but really, what could that possible add, a point?  Half a point?  Come on).  I also purchased more than my usual share of the 1,210 cases of Perigee produced this year since the winery has offered a special anniversary price that marks the price down from the $49 retail price to $41, and even further, to less than $35 when you add in the wine club and case discounts!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine on a warm fall evening on the patio as I get ready to grill a nice thick New York strip, some oven roasted fingerling potatoes and a salad, as this wine is the perfect accompaniment to a seared steak!  YUM!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

2007 Vino Tinto - The Tapas Wine Collection

So tonight I'm taking a detour to Spain, since I missed Tempranillo day last Thursday.  I picked up this bottle a month or so ago from the World Market, had an interesting label and it was under $10, so I figured why not give it a shot?  After all, a nice tempranillo can compliment a wide variety of dishes, large or small!

The wine is a deep purple color in the glass, with some lighter ruby along the edges.  The nose is very sweet, with aromas of black currant, vanilla, baking spice and a hint of root beer or all things.  The taste is somewhat fruit forward, with ripe berry and cherry cola flavors transitioning to a bit of anise, dried herbs and a hint of oak.  The tannins are supple, making for a lush mouthfeel and a smooth, dry finish that lasts a bit longer than I expected.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7, especially considering the value price.  It would pair nicely with a variety of tapas as well as roasted meats or grilled seafood.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with some Maryland style crab cakes, steamed fingerling potatoes and some fresh cauliflower, a wonderful autumn spread!

Friday, November 9, 2012

2008 Villa Mattielli Amarone della Valpolicella

It's Friday I'm in love...for those of you who are children of the 1980s and 1990s, you'll instantly recognize those words as a title of a song by The Cure.  Well today is Friday, and I'm in love with Amarone!  It's been a long week with a lot of travel for work, so I figured tonight I should treat myself with a little something special from Italy, a nice Amarone della Valpolicella, a wine that is somewhat eclectic in its style, but certainly worthwhile in every way!

The wine is a nice ruby color in the glass, but somewhat lighter than many Amarones, this is likely due to its somewhat youthful presence.  The nose is quite pleasant, with aromas of sweet berries, ripe plums and licorice.  The taste is big and fruit forward with flavors of plum, raisin and ripe berries, transitioning to strawberries and grass midpalate, leading to a nicely structured and dry finish.  Although it's 15% alcohol by volume, I didn't notice a strong alcohol presence in the wine, though I note that the wine could use a few more years of cellaring before coming into its prime.

Overall I would rate this wine a 7.5 with room to improve over time, plus it was a good value from Wines Till Sold Out for less than $25.  Tonight I am pairing it with the classic Italian American favorite, pizza pie!  In this instance a lovely Home Run Inn frozen pizza, which is classic Chicago style thin crust pizza, with sausage and pepperoni (for those unfamiliar, you should really try one before you dismiss it out of had, it's my all time favorite frozen pizza)!  The sweet fruit of the wine plays nicely with the spice of the meat, and throw in a few pepperoncinis and you have a lovely meal for spending an evening relaxing from a hard week of work!  Salut!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2003 Le Signal Domaine Lignères

So tonight I've decided to open up a bottle of wine from the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France, certainly one of my favorite wine regions outside of Bordeaux, with the signature blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, they tend to be much more fruit forward and in many ways more food friendly wines than some other regions of France.  This particular wine is a blend of Carignan (80%), Grenache (10%), Syrah (5%) and Mourvèdre (5%), which is interesting as I've not tried many wines based primarily on Carignan.  This wine also had an interesting story on the label (yes I do read these things!) and apparently in the 1920s the winemaker delivered the domaine's wines in a Berliet truck designed to carry barrels.  He took 22 hours at an average speed of less than 7 mph to go from Alaric Mountains to Lourdes where he finally delivered his wine!

The wine itself is a deep purple color in the glass, and the nose exhibits scents of mint, ripe plums and blueberries and a good bit of earthiness, perhaps a hint of truffle.  The fruit was pleasant at the outset, with some chewy plum and black cherry flavors, there were some spice notes and a bit of cinnamon midpalate.  The tannins were very subdued, making for not much of a finish, though it was still pleasant.

Overall, I would rate this wine a mid-range 7, it's a pleasant one that might be a year or so past its prime, but at least it was a bargain - I picked it up at my local D&W for only $13!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a grilled pork tenderloin with a wasabi marinade, some steamed broccoli and a baked potato, a wonderfully fall dish, and the best part is that fruit in the wine really compliments the flavors of the pork and spice of the wasabi, so delicious!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

2003 Piancornello Brunello di Montalcino

Here we are at my fourth "Cellar Saturday" and I've decided to go back to my love of Italian wines, and particularly the wines of Tuscany.  Now of course you can't explore the wines of this region without taking some time for the undisputed king of Tuscan wines, Brunello di Montalcino, and this case the 2003 vintage of Piancornello. For those familiar with Brunello, you'll immediately recognize that vintage as one that caused quite a stir with the confiscation of four producers' 2003 Brunello on charges that they had fraudulently included foreign varietals in their wine labeled Brunello.  By law, Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, and although the investigation was somewhat inconclusive, the U.S. government blocked the import of 2003 vintage Brunellos that could not prove they were made with 100% Sangiovese (so I suppose this one is safe!).  The laws also require that the wine be aged a minimum of 2 years in oak, and 4 months in bottle before release, though most producer age their wines in oak for 3 years.

This wine has been in the bottle for considerably longer than 4 months, as most Brunellos really start coming into their own when they hit about 10 years old, so this one is just about to hit its stride.  The color on this wine is a rich garnet hue, certainly a bit lighter than your typical Napa Cab.  The nose has quite a bit of herbs, some classic spice, anise, and ripe red fruit with a hint of sweetness.  The taste was a bit tart up front but quickly transitioned into some rich ripe fruit and even a bit of prune midpalate which gave way to some interesting chocolate notes.  The tannins are somewhat subdued providing for a long, silky smooth finish that left me wanting another sip every time!

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 and perhaps even a 9 given the value.  I bought this one through Wines Till Sold Out back in 2010 for just $35, which is pretty good for a Brunello!  Tonight I am pairing this wine with a simple but delicious Italian dish, bucatini with mussels.  I simply sauteed some guanciale (this is a cured pig jowl, but you can use pancetta if you can't find guanciale) with some crushed garlic, then added some olive oil and about a pound of fresh mussels.  Once the mussels opened up, I added 2 cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes and about a cup of red wine (but not the brunello!).  Let that simmer for 20-30 minutes on low heat and then toss with some al dente bucatini (bucatini is a long pasta shaped like a drinking straw, but if you can't find it at your local store a nice linguine or spaghetti will do fine).  Top the dish with some fresh basil and some freshly shaved Parmesan and you have a lovely dinner! Tutti a tavola a mangiare!