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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2010 Ferrando La Torrazza Canavese Rosso

Around Christmas I wrote about a wine I had never tasted before and had it with fish on Christmas Eve - the Ferrando La Torrazza Erbaluce di Caluso, an interesting white from Piemonte.  Recently I saw a red by the same producer - the 2010 Ferrando La Torrazza Canavese Rosso.  I was intrigued by it and had to bring home a bottle.  It’s a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera.  I’ve had wines made from each of those grapes many times but never as a blend, so I was curious as to what it would be like.

It’s a fairly deep red color and due to its high alcohol content of 14% it stains the glass.  It shows characteristics of both red and dark fruit, baking spices, and vanilla and chocolate near the finish.  The aroma shows more “funk” than the flavor does - in fact, the flavors are very traditional and reflect the Piemonte terroir.  The wine has a nice texture, bright acidity, a clean and smooth feel, and a nice finish.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Beautiful Cremant de Provence

Until recently, I had no experience with Cremant de Provence.  I do love sparkling wines and enjoy thinking outside the Champagne box.  And since it’s the time of year for dry style rose wines, particularly those from Provence (and since I rep for an importer here in New York that distributes some excellent Cotes de Provence rose), I had the opportunity to try some.

The Domaine Saint Andre de Figuiere 2010 “Atmosphere” Cremant de Provence is an extra-brut sparkling rose made from Cinsault and Grenache, a fascinating blend for a sparkling wine.  The color is a very pale salmon pink, and the wine shows characteristics of mostly barely ripened fruits, including white citrus, peach, green apple, and strawberry.  The bubbles are very fine and the wine is so light, crisp, and clean - it’s a lovely sparkling wine, very unique and beautiful, and perfect for the warmer months.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Some Nice California Wines

It was a busy weekend in Virginia for my sister’s graduation ceremony from Georgetown’s Masters Degree program but I still managed to write up some tasting notes from a few wines that I hadn’t tasted before.  For the celebration dinner after the graduation ceremony, we went to Fyve Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Arlington, Virginia.  Since the menu appeared to reflect mostly American flavors, I decided to select American wines.
With seafood appetizers, I chose a somewhat inexpensive wine that I felt would pair nicely and it did.  It was the 2009 Miner “Simpson Vineyard” California Viognier, and it was delicious.  Pale gold in color, it shows characteristics of mostly orchard fruit and tropical fruit including ripe peach and papaya, as well as the floral notes we’d expect from a Viognier.  The wine has is a bit round and very smooth with nice underlying acidity and a very clean feel.

With beef tenderloin, I chose the 2006 Grgich Hills Napa Zinfandel and asked for it to be decanted, as I didn’t want the aromas leaping wildly from the glass and I wanted to be sure that after several years in the bottle, any sediment the wine may have accumulated would remain in the bottle.  The wine was lovely and softened more than I had anticipated. It’s a dark red color and shows characteristics of mostly dark stewed fruits, dark wild berry, plum, bold spices, oak, and some earthiness.  It’s a big wine but it’s softening, it’s nicely balanced, and it’s delicious.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bordeaux Dinner at Rothmann’s Steakhouse

This week I had the pleasure of attending a Bordeaux dinner at Rothmann’s Steakhouse here on Long Island, featuring mostly Bordeaux from the extraordinary 2009 vintage, and a few from 2004 and 2005.
We began with the 2009 Tour de Leognan Blanc from Pessac-Leognan (by Chateau Carbonnieux), paired with an octopus and white bean appetizer.  The wine is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon, as is a normal blend for a white from Bordeaux, and is youthful and pale yellow/straw colored with characteristics of citrus and orchard fruit, as well as pineapple, and a bit of cool mineral, and some soft oak notes, and fairly bright acidity.

A sort of wildcard that I didn’t see on the menu for the evening was a surprise bottle of 2005 Chateau Carbonnieux, which is aging very gracefully, softening and beginning to show a hint of richness in its color, lovely fruit, plenty of clean acidity, a crisp feel, but a bit more oak than the Tour de Leognan.  This wine is fabulous and was one of my favorites of the evening.

We then moved on to reds - the course was mussels and andouille sausage, and the first red was the 2009 Chateau de Pitray from Cotes de Castillon - it’s about 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc.  The wine is a slightly deep red, with characteristics of both red and dark fruit, soft spice, and some smoke, and a smooth texture.  Even in its youth, the wine is quite approachable.

Next was the 2009 l’Heritage de Chasse Spleen, a Haut Medoc of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and some Merlot.  It’s quite young and a bit tight but clearly it will get better with age.  The fruit and spice is lovely but the tannins move in fairly quickly, indicating that it needs some time.

It was around this time that the duck leg was served.  The next wine was the 2009 Baron de Brane (from Brane-Cantenac, a wonderful second growth from Margaux, which I’ve had before and wrote a post a few weeks about these wines).  This was one of my favorites of the evening - it’s quite dark in color with a somewhat clear rim, and very indicative of its left bank terroir, with plenty of fruit and pepper characteristics, and while it’s still quite tannic as it’s so young, it’s obvious that the wine is of such good quality, and this is another that will continue to improve with age, softening and becoming even more wonderful.

It was around this time that the filet mignon course was served.  The first wine of the flight was the 2009 Chateau Faugeres from Saint-Emilion.  This was one of the most fascinating wines in my opinion, because while it’s big, and full of fruit and earth characteristics as expected, what surprised me was the high viscosity of the wine and how it stained the glass - and that’s when my suspicions were confirmed - the wine has 14.5% alcohol!  That has to be the highest alcohol percentage I’ve ever noted in a Bordeaux.

Next was the 2009 Chateau Bouscart from Pessac-Leognan, a very nice wine, almost fun actually, unpretentious, yet lovely in aroma, flavor, and texture, and another that will continue to age nicely.

The last of the red 2009s was the Chateau Lalande Borie from Saint-Julien (Medoc).  This may have been the loveliest wine of the evening, as it is incredibly elegant even in its youth and will certainly improve with age.  The characteristics of ripe fruit, soft spice, and just a hint of leather are wonderful.  I absolutely loved this wine.

One of the night’s highlights was the 2004 Chateau Haut Bages Liberal from Pauillac, a fifth growth, paired with strip steak.  I’ve had several 2004 Bordeaux recently, and this one is aging very gracefully and showing beautiful aromas of ripe, luscious fruit and soft spices.  While there’s still plenty of youthful tannin, it’s beginning to soften and allow the fruit and acidity to shine through.

The final wine of the night, paired with pear and Roquefort cheese, was the 2009 Chateau le Dauphin de Guiraud, the youngest Sauternes I’ve ever tasted.  It’s still such a light color but promises to turn a golden hue in a few years.  Right now it’s showing characteristics of stewed peach, fresh apricot, and rich floral notes, and while it’s quite sweet, it shows a nice underlying acidity, leaving the palate feeling clean.  Eventually the fruit notes will become like dry fruit, concentrated, and mature.

Monday, May 14, 2012

2008 Shaw Vineyard Riesling

I think we can all agree that the grape best associated with the Finger Lakes region is Riesling.  Last week it occurred to me that I’ve been tasting through almost all of the wines from Shaw Vineyard including the LiBella Pinot Grigio, but I’ve never tried the Riesling.  In fact, I had only tasted two other Finger Lakes Rieslings - Hermann J. Wiemer and Dr. Konstantin Frank - and both of those, I tasted blind.
So a few nights ago, I got to taste the 2008 Shaw Vineyard Riesling.  And much like their other wines that I’ve tasted, it’s nothing short of awesome.  It’s straw colored and light, with characteristics of just a hint of citrus, mostly soft orchard fruit notes (peach in particular), floral notes, and cool mineral.  There’s some sweetness for sure, but there’s also a nice underlying acidity as we’d expect from a good Riesling, a clean feel, and lovely overall.
Aside from the obvious good quality (and I know I’ve mentioned in other Shaw posts that I appreciate the aging of the Shaw wines before release, just one more thing that sets them apart from lots of other wines) - the wine is clearly expressive of its region.  I first noted that in December when I tasted the Shaw Sauvignon Blanc (my first taste of a Finger Lakes wine) and while it definitely has the aromas and flavors of Sauvignon Blanc, it’s different from those of California, France, and New Zealand.  The Riesling is equally as expressive of its region - it’s not like a Mosel, Rhein, Alsace, or Washington Riesling.  It’s different in texture, the mineral characteristic is unique, and it very clearly tells us it’s from the Finger Lakes.
Rs 2.1%
TA 9 g/l
Aged on the fine lees 3 years
300 cases produced 
Shaw Vineyard Seneca Lake property
Single vineyard 
Vegan friendly 
Grapes harvested late October 2008

Friday, May 11, 2012


If you’ve never tried Silvaner, you should.  It’s something a bit off-beat and has interesting characteristics, particularly when made dry style.  It’s produced mostly in Germany and in Alsace.
The first Silvaner I tried was the 2010 Winzer Sommerach Katzenkopf Silvaner Trocken from Franconia, in a cool Bocksbeutel.  The wine was a bit on the golden side, which I didn’t expect, and the characteristics were of very aromatic fruit, mostly orchard fruit, and overripe honeydew melon.  It’s very dry, and has a clean feel and a nice finish.

The other example that I recently tried was the 2010 Domaine Andre Kientzler Sylvaner Sec from Alsace, which was more my style.  It’s fairly pale in color, fairly low alcohol, and shows characteristics of lots of citrus and bright crisp fruits, and clean cool mineral.  It has a nice feel, very clean texture, and a fairly long finish.

Monday, May 7, 2012

#LanguedocDay 2012

A few days ago it was #LanguedocDay.  Being a wine geek, I love “wine holidays” and use them as an opportunity to explore the specified grape or region a bit more and enjoy that particular wine, especially if it’s a wine that I wouldn’t normally think to buy regularly.
Since I had some leftover wine in my sample bottles and happened to have 3 wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, it was easy to do some tasting on that day.  Two of the wines were from Minervois and one was from Collioure.
First was the 2011 Chateau Canet Minervois Rose, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault.  The wine is a salmon pink, with characteristics of lemon, grapefruit, barely ripened berry, white blossom, a hint of herb, mineral, and clean bright crisp acidity.

Next was the 2009 Chateau Canet Minervois Rouge, a blend of Syrah and Grenache.  It’s a dark purple color and stains the glass, and has characteristics of mostly dark fruit, smooth spices, leather, “animal” notes, earthiness, and a bit of wildness, smooth texture and nice acidity.

The star of the evening, as expected, was the 2008 Comaine Madeloc Gaillard Cuvee Serral Collioure, a blend of Grenache and Syrah.  The wine is dark in color and has characteristics of dark fruit, stewed raspberry, plenty of spice, black pepper, purple flowers, just a bit of the wild characteristics often found in Languedoc-Roussillon wines and some “animal” notes, and earthiness.  It’s a delicious wine, very ripe, with nice acidity and a lovely smooth texture and a long finish.  This was definitely one of the better wines from Languedoc-Roussillon that I’ve had in a while!

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Few Amazing Burgundies and Bordeaux

This week I got to try a few truly exciting wines that amazed me even though I was already expecting them to be extraordinary.  The majesty and complexity of a great Bordeaux and the unparalleled elegance of a beautifully made Burgundy nearly left me speechless as I tasted.
The Burgundies were from Meo-Camuzet.  We tasted through the 2009 Hospice de Nuits Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Didiers,” Grand Cru Corton Les Perrieres, and Grand Cru Echezeaux Les Rouges de Bas - pure elegance.  All three wines show a cool earthiness and plenty of clean acidity.  The Nuits-Saint-Georges showed a lot of red fruit and a bit more spice than I had anticipated, and it had more presence than I expected, so I was really pleasantly surprised.  The Corton was incredibly lovely, delicate, and elegant - the aromas are soft and the flavors and texture are smooth.  The Echezeaux truly amazed me - the balance is near impeccable and the aromas, flavors, and texture are wonderful.

Meo-Camuzet lineup

The Bordeaux were from Chateau Brane-Cantenac, a Margaux second growth from the 1855 Bordeaux Classification.  After a brief presentation on the history and winemaking of the chateau, we tasted through the 2007 Baron de Brane and 2009 Baron de Brane (second wine of the chateau), followed by the 2006 Chateau Brane-Cantenac and 2009 Chateau Brane-Cantenac.  Before I say anything else, I’ll mention that the wines from this chateau are intended for aging, and I’ll also mention that the 2009 vintage was considered extraordinary, and after tasting the two 2009s, I’m convinced.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac and Baron de Brane

The 2007 Baron de Brane shows plenty of ripe fruit and soft spice and anise, and as the wine embarks on its long finish, vanilla is the most dominant characteristic.  The 2009 showed great texture and richness and is an absolutely charming wine.  The 2006 Chateau Brane-Cantenac actually seems like it’s approaching time to drink - it’s soft and full and beautiful, and while I still think it ought to be decanted, it doesn’t drink like it needs a lot of time before enjoying it.  The 2009 Chateau Brane Cantenac stunned me and after taking my first taste, I didn’t perceive anything else in the room except for the wine - no voices, nothing else but the wine.  At that moment, I understood why the 2009 vintage is so special.  Balance, so many layers of flavor and characteristics, fruit, baking spices, dried flowers, oak, earth, coming to me one after another yet all together, with fullness, elegance, smoothness, and an expression of its identity that I like to detect in great wines - this wine stunned me.  And the last sip did not go into the spit bucket.