Variations on a Theme

Anam Cara 2010 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir

Anam Cara 2010 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir

I Just returned from a nice trip (well except for the travel part) to Washington DC, where I went to visit a dear old friend. And of course I couldn’t just takeover his life and his room for two days without bringing something to share. I picked a few bottles I’ve been wanting to try and we enjoyed them very much. Amusingly, I realized there was an unintentional theme going here.

The first was a 2008 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir. Ruby-garnet in color, it had a beautiful nose of luscious cherry fruit, leather and toasty oak with white pepper, cherry pie and cedar on the palate. Vibrant, well-balanced and clean. A medium, fruit-filled finish. A classic Oregon Pinot and an example of why I love Pinot from this region so much. It is their flagship wine and includes fruit from all 5 blocks of the vineyard.  It received 90 pts from Parker, Tanzer, and Wine Enthusiast. Indeed. A great wine and great price for the quality and the region, at $35. Abv is 13.5% which for a Pinot Noir packs a good kick, as these are well-ripened on the high hills of the Chehalem.

Nicolas Granata 2003 Malbec

Nicolas Granata 2003 Malbec

Next up was a Nicolás Granata 2003 Malbec. See the theme yet? Fed by fresh water from the Andes this just-south-of-Mendoza beauty from Luján de Cuyo was ripe and rich. Hand-picked grapes fermented in steel and then aged in fine French barriques make a smooth and very balanced Malbec that exemplifies the region’s best.

The hot daytime temperatures and sunshine mean well-ripened grapes and the cooler evening temperatures at over 3,000ft up guarantee good hang time as well to preserve the acidity and keep the resulting wine balanced. Cocoa notes abound and compliment the black and red fruit and the elegance of the oak rounds it out.  I purchased this wine after tasting it at the “Wine into Water” benefit tasting I mentioned in my last blog. If I recall correctly it is named after the winemaker’s son and he only makes it every four years as a special edition. Wine Enthusiast gave it 86 points.  Average price was about $50 and abv was 14%.

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Briccotondo Langhe Dolcetto DOC 2010

Briccotondo Langhe Dolcetto 2010 DOC

Briccotondo Langhe Dolcetto 2010 DOC

Italian reds are without a doubt among my favorite wines and I enjoy them on a regular basis. It doesn’t hurt that I love Italian food as well, so pairing is easy. And Piedmont reds are among my favorite Italian reds. Could it be a coincidence that Piedmont has the most DOCs and DOCGs in all of Italy?  I usually go for the Barberas though don’t get me wrong I love a nice classy Barolo or Barbaresco. It’s just that such wines illicit a more serious food pairing to match the complexity. All that well-developed tannin and acidity that makes it so wonderfully ageworthy demands a fine meal. So on an everyday-drinking level, the region has many other nice reds that can be quaffed solo and pair well with contemporary fare as well.  While my beloved Barbera is light in tannin and more acidic, Dolcetto is more tannic yet still fruit-forward and  hence somewhere in the middle. Due to the light acidity, this is a wine best enjoyed young. And like Barbera, its accessible to smaller budgets while not lacking in quality and flavor by any means and are a great value for the money.

While Langhe is most known as the greater de-classified region surrounding Barolo and Barbaresco, it is also home to some tasty Dolcettos.  The most common are from one of my favorite Barbera regions – Asti – though Dogliani is the most famous, and is the DOCG of note for the variety.  This particular wine is from the greater Langhe appellation.

I tasted and purchased this wine at a charity tasting for a very admirable cause called “Wine into Water” (http://winetowater.org/), a charity now reaching farther and farther, with the purpose of providing clean drinking water for needy people around the world.  Approximately 1 in 6 people in the world don’t have access to clean water. The idea was started by a former North Carolina bartender, Doc Hendley. He learned first-hand the effort many communities had to go through just to secure drinking water, that often was not clean enough to drink even if it was accessable. The charity now uses its proceeds to provide water filters and wells in these places.  This particular event was hosted by wine merchant Nicholas Roberts.

Ruby in color, on the nose are prune, cherry and soft plum. On the palate the tannins are quite smooth and well-balanced, and tart bold fruit fleshes out the body which is medium but with all that going on feels fuller. It says 13% on the bottle but there’s good alcohol in the back of my throat.  There is some floral note as well – rose, perhaps? It is bold but has some of that rustic note you expect in Piedmont wines. I did not pair the wine in this instance but it would be a fine match to some of my favorite Italian cuisine.