Chateau Peyros “Magenta” 2010

Chateau Peyros "Magenta" 2010

Chateau Peyros “Magenta” 2010

Please forgive my less-than-consistent updates as of late — between the holidays and other commitments, free time has been scarce. Busy is good, I suppose. But I’ve been looking forward to writing about this wine, and I have a trip planned to a Virginia winery this weekend as well that I plan to share with you.

Today I’d like to tell you about a fantastic Madiran wine given to me in a wine exchange with my manager at work. I traded her a lovely 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir (natch) and in return received this delicious wine. Madiran AOP is located just 35 miles north of the Pyrenees and 50 miles east of the Atlantic in Southwestern France. The combination of the steep mountainside vineyards and the Mediterranean climate help to ripen the grapes properly.

Madiran wines wines are made from red grapes only and the rules require that at least 40% of the wine blend consist of the region’s primary grape Tannat, though some are actually 100% and this is also permitted, or rather not enforced. It is a very age-worthy wine style because of the concentrated fruit and substantial tannins (hence the origin of the grape’s name) but therefore also can be astringent and rough when younger. The addition of Bordeaux stars Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon or the local varietal known as Fer Servadou soften it and help make it more drinkable, especially in its youth.  After a few years time it becomes incredibly smooth and supple and this wine was showing well already. Newer winery techniques such as micro-oxygenization lend additional aid in the softening process as does oak maturation. The structure and elegance of these wines can easily stand up to their Bordeaux cousins, and some of the most famous fetch similar prices. While this is the original and most famous region for Tannat, it is now finding great success in Uruguay, similar to that of Malbec in Argentina.

This 2010 Chateau Peyros “Magenta” is a 50-50 blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc and on the palate also strikes a perfect balance of structure and fruit — blackberry, plum and cherry primarily. The name is derived from the purplish hue of the blend.  It also has a nice amount of baking spice, hints of smoke and an earthy, almost gamey note as well. A lasting finish included additional hints of spice that lingered on. Typical age before drinking is recommended at 4-8 years, so at five years old, this beauty was ready to drink. It’s also extremely affordable. I don’t know the price paid as it was a gift, but from a quick online search it looks like you can get them from $11-14.

Suggested food pairings are pork and lamb, or a fatty cheese like Roquefort — the fat easily cut through by the firm tannins. So we prepared braised pork chops with a dijon glaze and a spicy pilaf and it was a match made in heaven.

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008 (375 ml)

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008

At work, our team Italian wine expert is my colleague Stephen. Whereas I’m more the French and American wines geek, he knows his Italian wines — especially the Brunello. Today we are talking about another Sangiovese-based Italian classic. Chianti Classico means it is made in the ‘classic’ or original historic region of production. Located within central Tuscany, the region of Chianti is larger now, with several other sub-regions including Chianti Rufina and Chianti Colli Senesi. And only the Classico region can have the famous black rooster symbol on the neck of the bottle (see second photo), indicating the producer is part of the Chianti Classico consortium. This consortium focuses on improving the quality and integrity of the wines. Originally known for the straw-basket bottles called fiascos (a few producers still bottle it in those), Chianti DOCG is Italy’s most exported red wine. It is a region with many centuries-old vineyards. They are typically aged in oak – botte or the French barriques. This wine is aged in the French oak for 12 months, and their grapes are all organically grown. Chianti is primarily Sangiovese, but up to 20% can be other varietals, usually local ones like Caniaolo and Colorino. In the earliest forms of Chianti, there were even white grapes like Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano allowed. Sangiovese wines give you a good amount of acidity and tannin, so the blending of other varietals makes it a bit less astringent. While this is 100% Sangiovese, it is sufficiently mellowed at this age.

The Chianti Classico Black Rooster logo

The Chianti Classico Black Rooster logo

On to the Fontodi story… So Steve had promised me a nice bottle of wine if I completed all my goals for the month, and I did. Well, about a month later, or was it two, I finally did get that gift. And what a great one it was. So, while I like to tease him for how long it took to get to me, I am really thrilled he gave it to me. I shared it with another one of our colleagues that very night. 2008 was a great vintage in the region, and Fontodi is one fantastic Chianti. After all, this is a wine and vintage that James Suckling gave 93 points, and got 90 points from Parker’s Wine Spectator. They are one of the current stars of the region.

On the nose, there’s intense black cherry, cocoa, plum and vanilla notes. On the palate it has deep, complex berry notes, spicy toast aromas from the oak, black pepper and a tobacco element as well. It was a tasty, tasty wine and between the two of us, did not last long.  Salute!

Beaulieu Vineyard “Beaurouge” Napa Valley 2010

Beaulieu Vineyard "Beaurouge" Napa Valley 2010

Beaulieu Vineyard “Beaurouge” Napa Valley 2010

Lately there’s been a whole lot of Napa wine in my life. After several weeks of negotiation and rushing samples here and there with the help of my team, I successfully outfitted a fancy New York Wedding with 14 cases of a nice 2009 Napa blend. I have also tasted a good number of other Napa wines lately for more customer recommendations. And so it only seemed appropriate at the time to go in on this half-price special on Last Bottle Wines with my co-worker. I think I paid a ridiculous $15 a bottle after the sale.

Beaulieu Vineyard has been owned and continuously operated by the highly reputable Bordeaux Château Latour of Pauillac for over 100 years, surviving and growing throughout the prohibition era by making sacramental wines.  Georges de Latour fell in love with Napa on first sight and supposedly (I’m sure its true, I just wasn’t there…) exclaimed “beau lieu!” or “beautiful land,” giving birth to the winery and vineyard name. One of the oldest in the region, It helped pioneer the development of Cabernet in the region and has had no shortage of 90+ wines to brag about since. Its’ centuries-old Bordeaux counterpart continues to as famous and successful to this day.

The nose has aromas of currant, plum and cocoa leaping from the glass, with the oak actually put in its place by all that’s going on in this blend. Normally I find a Napa red to be an oak bomb, but here the grapes do the talking, and for this reason, this is a Napa red I can really appreciate. Nothing at all against the successful formula employed for generations around the world, but to me oak should compliment and round out the wine, not personify it. The winemaker is Jeffrey Stambor, who studied here under Latour’s original winemaker André Tchelistcheff, and has been making wine here since 1989.

Today I’m very happy to not be paying $100+ a bottle for one of their wines. And what an interesting wine it is. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Touriga Naçional, Tempranillo and Charbono, it’s incredibly dark, rich and complex. It also carries a 14.5% abv. But what did I really think? The drink-by date was 2017 but both bottles are gone by the time of this writing.

Cheers!

Hands-On at Harvest 2014

 

"My" row, on the right

“My” row, on the right

Last Sunday was a truly special experience for me. You may recall my entry from last September when I stumbled upon the Cayuga harvest at a local winery, White Silo. Well, I did indeed follow up on a volunteering opportunity with their winemaker early last month, and on Sunday I had the privilege to participate in the harvest activities.  It was not only a barrel-load of fun, but highly educational.

Cayuga is a Cornell-engineered cold-climate resistant white grape that is therefore highly successful in the Northeastern United States. While this winery deals primarily in fruit wines, they do produce a few traditional grape wines. The Cayuga here is the main production, with smaller quantities of Marquette and Frontenac (also cold-hardy engineered hybrid grapes – these from the University of Minnesota), for their red. We stuck with harvesting the Cayuga on this day. All in all there were 7 rows of the grape, and I managed to fill 3 bins when I completed my row – about 250 lbs worth. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed working out there picking grapes. I grew up doing a lot of yard work as part of my household chores, and as much as I moaned about it then, I clearly developed an appreciation for working the land. And seeing as hiking and skiing are two of my favorite activities, I am without a doubt an outdoor guy. So even after four hours in the blazing sun with swarms of bees, spiders and stinging nettle in my midst, and just a cap and a little sunblock as shelter, you heard nothing but laughter from me as I traded stories with all the pickers.

After picking, we moved to the de-stemming and crushing process. Some more nice photos of this process and equipment, as well as the winery itself, can be seen in the original post. I enjoyed loading the de-stemmer and transferring the free run juice and pressed juice (all blended here – no 1st and 2nd wines just yet) into the tank. We netted about 1,250 lbs of grapes, producing about 90 gallons of wine. We wisely set up in the shade for this portion of the afternoon and it took about 3 rounds of pressing with a nice lunch break in-between and a glass of their delicious dry rhubarb wine.

The de-stemmer at work

The de-stemmer at work

I spent the rest of the afternoon with the winemakers doing the acidity and pH tests as well as calculating, activating and acclimating the yeast to then add to the tank and get things going. This really took me back to my chemistry days, as we created solutions, and used beakers and pipettes to very accurately measure the acidity level. It was fascinating – I don’t think I ever enjoyed chemistry as much. The pH test was done by a simple device that saves some time, and a calibrated scale measured the right proportion of yeast. I enjoyed stirring the must while adding the final ingredients and we sealed the tank.

As my reward I got to take home a few of my favorite bottles, including their “Upland Pastures Dry White” which I watched them harvest and press last year. This is the wine I helped create the next vintage for today. This weekend I will be back in the area for another overnight hike and am going to stop in to see how fermentation is going. Stay tuned!

International Grenache Day 2014: Borsao Garnacha 2012

Borsao Garnacha 2012

Borsao Garnacha 2012

Sorry for getting this in so late folks, but it was a work day, and it was the good kind of busy! So no history lesson today but I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to plug a tasty varietal like Grenache/Garnacha! Today’s choice is a bold, rich example from Aragon, Spain and bearing the proud seal of the Campo de Borja D.O. region. This wine is a fairly young, tasty fruit bomb — yet teeming with the complexity I love from this grape. All sorts of great aromas pop from the nose of the dark, confectious wine in my glass. It does not need a single thing to compliment it, yet it compliments so much. Lush, concentrated black fruit melds with cherry, leather, and a spicy vanilla note. It is really seductive.

On the palate the cherry and blackberry continue to pop as does that nice spice note but this is super smooth. The tannin and acid you want in there with the fruit in a balanced wine are there, without being too much. It is about as smooth as can be. I am enjoying it with some rustic Kalamata olive crackers and fig spread, and will polish it off with some seared filet mignon and sauteed escarole with olive oil and garlic. My mouth was watering for the meal my wife told me she was preparing, but this wine got a head start and gave me way more than I was expecting right out of the gate. It’s going to be a great night.

At the local wine shop, this wine was priced at a ridiculous value – $9 a bottle, with a high recommendation on quality.  And was he ever right. It is delicious, go try one! Wish I had more than one but at least I know I can afford it! Wine-Searcher has it at many places even cheaper. Nice to know you can still find a knockout wine for a great value.

International Cabernet Day: Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

I Love Cabernet

I Love Cabernet

Happy International Cabernet Day!

This is one of my more frequently enjoyed varieties, and I’m always happy to enjoy it with friends and family, or even alone, if I must. I saved a doozy for the occasion. My sister and I are both enjoying the wine very much, but given the pedigree of its terroir I can’t say I’m surprised. And without a doubt, 2012 was a stellar vintage in the region. They’re saying it might be the best vintage here since 1976. While we’ve all opened something before that had a better reputation than presentation, this one does not. I got it through a special at wineaccess.com.

Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa is very much about the family wineries. The first commercial winery to make its roots in the area was that of Charles Krug (now owned by the Mondavi family) and more than a century later — and a short unfortunate stint known as prohibition — the region is still dominated by family-run wineries with decades or more of wine-making under their belts. Inglenook (now owned by Francis Ford Coppola), Beaulieu vineyards (France’s Latour family) and Beringer are just a few others of the families you might recognize who make wine in the region. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the region many years ago, riding on the Napa Valley wine train and a dinner and tasting at Markham in St Helena. I hope to get back there soon on business.

Stag’s Leap is one of the notable appellations (or AVAs), consisting of 19 wineries and vineyards, their own growers’ association and a reputation for exceptional Cabernet. There is no better example of that than Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars taking best Cabernet at the 1976 Judgement of Paris, that put California wine on the map for good. While this wine is not from that vineyard nor does it snag the prices of some of the wines from the region, it is an elegant, expressive, and delicious Cabernet that did not disappoint nor did it break the bank. A perfect pick, if you ask me.

The wine pours a deep purple in the glass, with notes of tobacco, blackberry, cassis and subtle well-integrated oak on the nose. On the palate, bright notes of succulent blackberries continue to dominate, with good acidity and balanced tannin and a lingering finish. Everything in the right place, and it should only continue to age well. However it is worth noting that I had only one bottle, so it won’t get the opportunity! Rest assured, I will be buying more, if there’s any left. This wine clearly demonstrates the success of the 2012 vintage, and Napa (and Stag Leap’s) best.

There are around 500 wineries in Napa now, all working to further the fine reputation of the area and its grapes as well as supporting its own local community through charity fundraisers and programs. After seeing much of the damage in the area from the recent earthquake last weekend, I hope the 2014 vintage pulls through alright. With such a tight community, I feel confident they will. Go pick up a nice bottle and help your favorite Napa producers at the same time.

 

Anthony Nappa Frizzante 2013

Anthony Nappa Frizzante Sparkling Wine 2013

Anthony Nappa Frizzante Sparkling Wine 2013- It’s so hot today even the bottle is sweating!

It’s hot. It’s humid. I want something light and refreshing that will cool me off and relax me, not that I’m that un-relaxed. Enter Anthony Nappa’s sparkling Frizzante. A member of their wine club, this was a new one that came in our latest shipment that we haven’t seen until now. I’m sure you’ve read about Anthony Nappa in the blog before. He’s the creator of the Winemaker’s Studio on the North Fork of Long Island. I’m a fan of many of their wines, and was pleased to receive another I haven’t yet tried. I don’t drink sparkling wine regularly, as it goes to my head a bit quickly. But right now, it fits the bill, and is tasty with some cheese and crackers.

It is a blend of Pinot Noir (78%), Riesling (10%) and Gewürztraminer (12%). It’s made by a secondary fermentation in bottle and aged on the lees to add depth and body like a Champagne. It’s not filtered so does give a slightly cloudy appearance but keeping on the lees is to it’s benefit. It’s dry but has many of the aromas you’d expect in the Riesling and Gewürz like flowers, peach, and apricot and these continue on the palate. It goes for $20 and can be easily found in the NYC metro area. Bottoms up!