Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Foris 2006 Pinot Noir – Oregon - $13.98

The Foris Vineyards 2006 Oregon Pinot Noir is a nice and easy Pinot Noir that tastes and feels more like a $20-25 Pinot Noir than your garden variety mass produced versions from makers like BV Coastal, Mondavi Select, etc.

Very similar to a Bourgogne rouge, but with a New World Oregon twist, the wine has mineral and rich (not too rich) red berry aromas and flavors. Silky tannins and a nice supple finish round out a great, affordable and original Pinot Noir tasting experience from the US where most decent Pinot Noir starts at $30! It reminds me of a richer version of the Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

Foris’ Pinot Noir grapes do not come from the famed Willamette Valley, but the lesser known Rogue Valley in Southwestern Oregon. The label states that since 1974 Foris has been making wines in the Rogue Valley. I have had the “Fly Over Red” many times before ($13) from Foris which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and had always been pleased, especially for the price.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Over the last few weeks I have dug into my collection and have drank some great wines. Some were ready to go and had to be drunk now in order to still enjoy them in a period when they are peaking. Others I have had in my sights, but was just waiting for the right timing or meal to have them with. Most of these wines I purchased directly from the winery and are the last of my supply. I would buy any of these again or in the case of some of the older wines, I would buy recent vintages. The only wine I would hesitate with would be the Shiraz. For the price I could buy some stellar Aussie Shiraz or even cult Syrah from California Rhone-ophile Pax Wine Cellars!

On to the wines....

Peay 2005 Marsanne / Roussanne – Sonoma Coast $38

Finally, I have been holding onto this baby for the right time to drink this wine. I have been waiting to consume the Peay Marsanne/Roussanne with a nice piece of fish! One of the best examples of a white Rhone made in the US. Definitely up there with Alban, maybe better because of its restraint and complexity.

Color: Golden Yellow

Nose: Almonds, white flowers and citrus

Palate: Orange peel, crushed white flowers, clove, lemon oil and fresh limes - an excellent dry and crisp finish.

Darioush 2001 Shiraz Signature - Napa Valley $65

Known for liberal oak treatment and over the top winery construction, this Darioush wine was high on my list to consume before it peaked. Most guides had this ready to consume by 2009. I’d consume by the end of 2010. Big tannins, fruit, and oak characterize an amped up, but balanced wine. This is a big wine definitely having the Darioush “Signature”.

Color: Dark purple and red at the edges

Nose: Black fruit, sweet oak, and some black pepper.

Palate: In the mouth this wine was rich and full with black cherry and oak standing out amongst the other cocoa and briary flavors. The finish was smooth and rich. This is a big wine!

St. Innocent 2002 Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard – Willamette Valley, OR $40
Pinot Noir from Oregon, particularly from the Willamette Valley just outside Portland, is to me and many others the closest Pinot Noir gets to being Burgundian in the New World. It is on the same latitude as Burgundy, half way between the Equator and the North Pole. There are many styles in this region, but I like this wine a lot from the folks at St. Innocent Winery from the Shea Vineyard. The Shea Vineyard is owned by the folks at the Shea Wine Cellars. If I could only drink one winery's Pinot Noir from Oregon it would be form these guys at SWC. If I could only drink Pinot Noir from one vineyard in the Willamette Valley it would all have to come from the Shea Vineyard.

Color: Dark ruby red

Nose: Fresh red fruits with a Burgundian, Cote de Beaune-like aroma. The fruit gives it away as New World, yet most Oregon Pinot Noir retains a terroir aspect that Pinot Noir is so famous for, but lost on many new world makers that push ripeness to ever higher levels.

Palate: Excellent; the tannin, alcohol, fruit and acidity played well together to create a round, seamless wine - very well balanced wine. Cherry and some strawberry flavors mingle with lighter spicy and lots of earthy flavors. The finish is dry and clean, with great acidity.

Shafer 2002 Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch – Carneros, Napa Valley $40

I was surprised to see I still had a bottle of this lying around and was afraid it possibly would have gone bad, man was I wrong! This is my favorite Chardonnay from California. This Chardonnay from Shafer's Red Shoulder Ranch NEVER sees any malo-lactic fermentation, but is barrel fermented. This is in contrast to how Burgundy makes there Chardonnay, but a great way to make Chardonnay in California, IMO. Malo-lactic fermentation can add extra buttery and creamy flavors to the Chardonnay in New World wines, thus masking the Chardonnay’s real fruit and terroir. In the right hands, “malo” is just fine in California (see Paul Hobbs). But if the fruit is ripe, and from a warm climate with a cooling effect like the Carneros in the Napa Valley, acidity levels can naturally be maintained and malo-lactic fermentation is not necessary.

Color: Golden yellow with glints of green

Nose: Started out with ripe pineapple, toasty oak and some butterscotch notes. The nose later became more refined with a mineral component mingling with the oak and fruit.

Palate: It initially was rich, fruit and oak fanning out and leading to a fresh finish of Meyer lemons and crisp acidity. It later became more complex with a mineral character; the finish was also fresher and drier lasting about 30 seconds.

Stony Hill 2006 – Gewurztraminer – Spring Mountain, Napa Valley $21 (but HARD to find)

Coming from the longest running post-prohibition winery in the Napa Valley, this wine from Stony Hill is unique in many ways. 1) Gewurztraminer is a rare varietal in the new world and not very well known 2) Exotic aromas and flavors emanate from this wine when made in the right hands. 3) Pairs perfectly with Asian foods from India to the Orient! 4) Light and impeccably balanced for a white wine from the US – rare these days 5) Alcohol level is around 12%, very low for new world standards.

The McCrea family was brilliant to settle on this section of Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley and to maintain restraint in the making of their wines from day one and even to this very day.

Color: Very light straw color with a bright gold shimmer.

Nose: Exotic for any wine, but not Gewurztraminer. Lychee is always a hallmark and this wine has it. It took about 30 minutes to coax it out of the open bottle, but the Lychee aroma was very apparent along with some lime and lemon citrus notes.

Palate: Citrus fruits, primarily lemon, and mineral dominate with a crisp dry finish. Tasty wine with food, but has enough body to be drunk by itself.
Cheers - I hope you are enjoying refreshing wines in these hot summer days!


Monday, July 07, 2008

Chianti Tasting – “The Tuscan Nose” Trade and Consumer Chianti Classico Wine Consortium

A few months back in the midst of wedding mania I attended a trade show that had a consumer tasting of Chianti Classico from participating Chianti Classico producers. It was a great opportunity to taste MANY different producers of wines from the Chianti Classico region. I met up with Kyle and Cyn, my old roommate and his girlfriend. Chianti is Kyle’s favorite wine and he saw this as an opportunity to taste a lot of his wines and for me to have a better idea of what else is out there besides my favorites as traditionally do not spend to much or cellar focus on Chianti. I can say this. My favorites are still my favorites, all but one of the 4 star wineries below I liked the most before the event and still do. Though the best winery overall was the new winery: Felsina. They had 4 wines to taste and weird enough the rep for the winery left after the trade part of the show but left about 12 or so bottles open, and full of their wines they had to offer. I poured each one for us and a few other bystanders as we progressed down the list impressed us and thought this was by far the best all around winery for the night. The wines will be listed below. All where very classically made with fresh aromas, flavors and that classic acidity to clean up the palate on the finish. The surprise of the night was from a producer that is not yet available in the US as their production is so small – Il Borghetto. They make Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir blended wines in the Chianti Classico region. I have to say they were by far the most unique wines at the whole show. Out of character from the typical Sangiovese based wines, they were still remarkable in flavor, structure and aroma. Like an Italian cousin of the Cote de Beaune! The best wine overall to me was still the Cestello di Ama. Not flashy, not over the top, but perfectly balanced and a classic wine.

Italian Wine Speak

(Applies to ALL of Italy except Piedmont for IGT wine)
DOCG - Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita - Strict Italian regulation guaranteeing the grape and region where the wine is from =i.e. Brunello, Barolo, Barbaresco
IGT - Indicazione Geografica Tipica - An Italian federal designation to allow for foreign grape varieties to be added to the wine. It is used most famously in Tuscany with the addition of French varietals like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to Sangiovese, creating the Super Tuscans. It is recognized in every Italian region except Piedmont.

Popular Regional Distinctions

Background: Chianti is a region, but a very broad general region where the cheapest wines are meant for immediate consumption (Think those squat shaped bottles with straw wrapping). Chianti Classico is a defined smaller region within Chianti focused on high quality Chianti - look for the Black Rooster on the pink DOCG tax label on the neck. Chianti Classico Reserva is the best wine from the producers located in the Chianti Classico region...though I would use "best" loosely as it’s not always the case! Man other producers also make single vineyard wines that are supposed to be a single expression of one exceptional vineyard that outshines the master blend of all of the vineyards that make up a Chianti Classico bottling.

Chianti DOCG - $5-15 in price, Drink immediately or within a year or two from vintage.
Chianti Classico DOCG - $10-30 - can age from 5-12 years, but would consume most within 10 years
Chianti Classico Reserva DOCG - $25-75 - some may age 15-20 years given the right vintage and extra oak treatment.
IGT - Any wine made in the Chianti region made from a large percentage combination of foreign grapes and Sangiovese (i.e. by foreign I mean Merlot, Cab, Syrah, etc.)

Tom’s Chianti Classico Recommended

Classic ($20-50)
Castello di Ama ****
Felsina ****
Castello di Fonterutoli ***
Fontadi ***

Slightly more modern classics ($15-40)
Terrabianca ***
Fattoria La Ripa ***
Panzanello ***
Dievole **1/2

Economical and ready now (Under $15)
Rocca Delle Macie ****
Casa Emma ***
Il Poggiolino ***

Recent Wines and Wine Experiences

Man do I have a lot to report on!

I) Chianti Tasting, 4/21/2008 NYC

II) Honeymoon in South Africa Wine Country 5/18/2008 - 5/21/2008: Remarkable Wines from Franschhoek and Stellenbosch (See picture below of Stellenbosch - yes, that is a picture!)

III) Wines over time...Mendoza Cabernet, Napa Syrah, Sardegna (Sardinia) Rose, Napa “Mountain” Chardonnay, Bourgeois and 2nd label Bordeaux, Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot, Napa Meritage, Napa non-OAK Chardonnay.

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