Sunday, November 30, 2008

2008 Thanksgiving wines...and a few more too!

On Thanksgiving (and Christmas) I like to start with Champagne. It's a festive wine and celebratory after all! After that, its all about what we feel like drinking the rest of the day and of course the food. TG is a tough holiday meal to pair wine with as a cornucopia of flavors and textures fight for your palate's attention in abundance unlike any other meal of the year. Champagne and Riesling are the most versatile wines out there, however I favor Champagne over Riesling in most cases expect for Asian cuisine. Champagne is also more fun and popular with wine drinkers than the sommelier adored Riesling (Somms. love Reisling).

This day I was definitely on for champagne, no doubt I was gifted an excellent bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow label the week before at the Wine Party. It was perfect for the occasion. Then I wanted white to have with the Italian antipasti, but had none other on hand except a Shafer Chardonnay that was not such a great pairing. I needed more acidity and a Friuli or Tuscan white would have been perfect, I was unprepared! The Chardonnay was nice and we had some left to have with the birds, it was a great pairing.

Now for the red, Pinot Noir without a doubt was what I was feeling! Lisa and I decided to pop the cork on a Sea Smoke Southing. I am now so happy I have more of this wine and will be ordering the allocation of the 2007s coming in spring 2009. The 2007 vintage of wines in California is supposed to be the best in 10 years since the much heralded 2007 vintage.

I was thinking about also opening a Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir but decided we had enough wine for the time being as we had the Prosecco that my family likes to have with the Turkey. I and a few others passed on the Prosecco and enjoyed the Sea Smoke Pinot Noir and Veuve Champagne with dinner. I also wanted to save room for desert and to drink one more wine with desert. I had been jonesing for over a week for the 1994 Chappellet Moelleux that I had been sitting on for a few years, man was it worth the wait! I was hoping it was not past its prime, but showed to be in great shape with quite a few years left!

So, onto the wines:

NV Veuve Clicquot, Brut Champagne, Reims, France

Always a crowd pleaser. Biscuity, lemon and apple aromas. Tasty yeasty notes of bread and biscuit, apple and citrus. Great bubbles and acidity clean up the nicely dry finish.

2005 Shafer, Chardonnay "Red Shoulder Ranch", Carneros, Napa Valley

Color: Golden straw yellow

: Toasty hazelnut, ripe apple and Meyer lemon aromas.

: Apple and citrus flavors, nutty and strong acidic finish that mellow as the wine was open longer. If drinking, I would decant for 30 minutes or so to mellow out the finish.

2005 Sea Smoke, Pinot Noir "Southing", Santa Barbara Hills AVA, CA

Color: A rich velvety dark red hue, ruby edges

: Lush Blackberry and Blueberry, dusty oak

: Blackberry and Blueberry, dusty oak and some nice minerality. Excellent tannic structure, firm but not overdone.
This is a great example of a wine I love and hope to buy every year!

1994 Chappellet, Chenin Blanc Moelleux (Desert Wine)

Color: Rich and glowing dark gold

: Creamy peach and spicy apricots, some older subtle oak aromas tell of age. Some orange blossom emerges later.

: Rich flavors and texture, yet light on its feet - not cloying or overbearing. I can drink this all night! Creamy peach, apricot, orange blossoms and honeysuckle. Great acidity still remains in this wine and refreshes the palate!

2006 Cote de Brouilly, Chateau Thivin, Beaujolais, France

Color: Dusty maroon and red

: Earthy with herbal tea and some cherry

: More of the same, red fruits, herbal tea and earth, some minerality. Fine-grained tannins finish it off.
A Grand Cru Beaujolais is a great wine at a great price. They tend to be less complex and more accessible than a red Burgundy, but in great years the Cru Beaujolais are excellent wines.

1998 Ducru-Beaucaillou - La Croix de Beaucaillou, St. Julien, Bordeaux

Color: Dark red in the decanter. In the glass ruby center with light red/brick edges.

: Red currants, meat and cedar.

: Red currants and cherry, spicy cedar, older herbs like bay leaf, loads of tannin on the finish.
A great second wine from a superb 2nd Growth Producer Ducru-Beaucaillou, this wine is getting more expensive of late so get some before the price sky rockets and gets close to $50. You can get this for about $30 or so retail.

Cheers and enjoy the days leading up the big holidays coming up in December!


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Williams Selyem Pickup Weekend, Millbrook Winery, Hudson Valley

Nestled in the heart of the Hudson Valley, this Sunday Lisa and I ventured about 2 hours north to visit Millbrook Winery in upstate Millbrook, New York. Within the lofted tasting room of Millbrook Winery we tasted through a few Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay and a red Zinfandel – from California! The owners of WS are from NY and also owned Millbrook before they purchased WS in 1998. We made the trip to enjoy a leisurely Sunday drive upstate to pick up my recent order of Williams Selyem wine futures. The Dyson family are gracious enough to also provide a few goodies when you arrive, we tasted a few of the latest vintage wines of William Selyem and Millbrook Winery, as well as an Italian winery in Tuscany I was unaware they also owned – Villa Pillo. The drive was beautiful through the windy roads and rolling hills, colored red, gold and amber from the leaves changing colors and the sun shining down on them. Now, onto the wine:

2006 Drake Chardonnay (tasted last)
Like a cross between a classic made California Chardonnay and a well made white burgundy, this wine was showing well and made me think twice about passing on their Chardonnay offerings.
Color: Golden with green flecks
Nose: Mineral, apple and citrus aromas rise from the glass.
Palate: Lightly toasted oak frames apple, candied lemon.
Finish: Mineral and crisp acidity freshen the palate.

2006 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir
Color: Light ruby red
Nose: Candied cherry, cola and spicy aromas
Palate: Classic RR Pinot, not heavy, ethereal and full of finesse. Cherry, earth, and some dusty
Finish: Clean, refreshing, not long, but probably to young. I believe this is also a newly mature
vineyard; the next few vintages should attain more length and complexity.

2006 Weir Vineyard
Color: Ruby red
Nose: Strawberry, cinnamon and some mushroom notes.
Palate: More strawberry, some cola and spicy cedar/cinnamon secondary flavors.
Finish: Smooth, supple fruit and tannins carry a nice finish.

2007 Litton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
I can’t WAIT for the 2007 wines! I have been reading a lot lately that 2007 is going to be a banner year – what better way to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the 1997 vintage with what some are saying the best vintage since then. And that is for many grapes, Pinot, Cabernet and Syrah early reports are off the charts.

This was an awesome wine, young and pretty well together for such a new wine, it was showing depth and complexity the other wines just did not have – likely the premium site and also the stellar 2007 vintage. This is also typically the most full bodied Pinot that WS makes according to the pourer.

Color: Dark red and ruby, much darker than the last two
Nose: Black cherry, blackberry, full and inviting
Palate: Lush and expansive, ripe black cherry and black berry stand out the most, but the wine
was still light on its feet and not cloying.
Finish: Well balanced for such a young wine, the finish sailed on for a long time. The aromas,
palate and finish worked so well this is the best WS Pinot I have had to date.

I hope I will be allocated this next year!

2006 Forcini Vineyard Zinfandel
This was the wine I was coming to pick up – WS in known for making elegant red Zinfandel, not typical as many Zins can be jammy fruit bombs. I ordered my full allocation this year – 2 bottles!

Color: Dark red and ruby
Nose: Ripe blackberry and dusty mocha/chocolate notes, some oak.
Palate: Tasty blackberry and chocolate, some oak and tannin frame the wines finish.
Finish: A great example of elegant Zinfandel, restrained, but ripe black berries and supple
tannin leave the taster coming back for more.

We only had time for one winery and lunch so we will try to come back earlier in the day or stay later for the spring to pick up of the wines we may order.

Cheers from the wine trail!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Merlot? Blackbird Merlot!

Yes, I said Merlot! And it’s not just any Merlot, the 2006 Blackbird "Arise" from Napa Valley. This 100% Merlot comes from the Pomerol inspired Blackbird Vineyards in the Oak Knoll appellation in the Napa Valley. I received my 2006 wines from BB 3 weeks ago and have been very patient not to dig in too soon. If you drink a wine too soon after it has arrived from shipment, you may have a wine not ready to drink as it is in a form of shock from all of the movement involved in shipping a package. In short, let’s just say it pays to give it 2-4 weeks to let the wine settle down. The Arise is the intro-level wine, priced at $50 retail, and that is if you can find it in a store. You have to go to the winery to buy. This may be one of the best Merlots from the US I have ever had, better than the Paul Hobbs 2003 Michael Black Merlot I had the other day which can go for $25-50 more! OK, on to the notes:

Color: Dark red, ruby edges, a deep red that draws you color of a wine I have seen in a while.

Nose: Crème d'cassis, some black cherry, sweet oak and vanil

Palate: Plum, black cherry, spicy oak, a tinge of savory herb with slightly rustic, yet youthful tannins.

Finish: Fresh! Long, classy finish that sails on and on.

*** (out of 4)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico 2005

In the Chianti Classico region the wines of Fattoria di Felsina make some of my favorite wines from Chianti. Located just outside Siena, Felsina and their vineyards lie near Castelnuovo Berardenga.

When it is made well, Chianti Classico is quite a versatile wine. Never the brashest of wines, rarely high in alcohol or sweet, they perfectly balance fruit, acidity and tannin. In fact when I think of Chianti I think of mouthwatering acidity that goes so well with Mediterranean cuisine, especially that of Tuscany. A touch of earthiness, dried cherries, and in some cases a meatiness, are classic Chianti flavors and aroma traits.

The rules of what you can make a Chianti Classico from have changed in recent years, but Felsina sticks to making their Chianti Classico wines of 100% Sangiovese, unless otherwise noted as being a Super Tuscan, or IGT. Traditional blends usually maintain a high percentage of indigenous grapes. Sangiovese anchors almost all Classico wines as the majority grape.

Color: Dark ruby red, lighter out to the edges.

Nose: Earthy, tart red fruits, tobacco

Palate: Medium bodied, tart cherry and other zesty red fruits, earthy, snappy acidity that refreshes with each sip.

Finish: Firm from the tannins, yet refreshing because of the solid backbone of acidity. A classic Italian Sangiovese!


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