Exceptional Red

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Vetti 2010 Perbacco

Vietti 2010 Nebbiolo Perbacco

I recently reviewed Vietti 2011 Barbera D’Alba Tre Vigne and talked about the history and roots of the Vietti Winery dating back to the 19th Century and how Mario Vietti, in 1919, made the first Vietti wines, see my July 1, 2014 review.  I was very impressed with the Barbara, I decided to delve deeper into Vietti’s wine offerings.  Also in the July 1, 2014 review, I described how the winemakers, in 1970, began to update their wine labels through their friendship and support of local artists and continues today.

Opening a bottle of the 2010 Perbacco, which is 100% Nebbiolo grapes, that come from eight different locations around the Langhe DOC zone in Piedmont.  The grapes from each of the eight vineyards were first vinified prior to blending.  The Nebbiolo was aged for about 16 months in oak (part in large oak casks and part in “barriques”, which are small barrels holding about 225 liters).  Pouring a glass I noticed a vibrant ruby red color and smelled aromas of red fruit, cherries, strawberries and raspberries, with a hint of earthy tobacco.  The palate shows generous fruit, slightly tart and mineral, slight spice and a soft touch of oak.  A medium length aftertaste with firm, but subtle, tannins.  Very well done!  This wine will only get better with some bottle age.  A great value for about $25.  If you close your eyes you might think you are drinking a Barolo!

Cheers!

Exceptional White

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Grgich Hills 2010 Chard

Grgich Hills Estate 2010 Napa Chardonnay

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. Then, in a now-historic blind tasting, a panel of eminent French judges swirled, sniffed, and sipped an array of the fabled white Burgundies of France and a small sampling of upstart Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked: they had chosen the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich, as the finest white wine in the world. Mon Dieu! The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.

After his victory in Paris, Mike sat down with Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl, from the Hills Bros. Coffee family, and on Independence Day 1977, they gave birth to Grgich Hills. It was an ideal partnership. Austin owned premium vineyards in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley, and with his extensive background in business, he put the winery on its financial feet. Mike, with his fierce commitment to making wines of the highest quality, began producing what immediately became their signature wine: the exquisite, richly complex Chardonnays that won awards and delight wine lovers across America and throughout the world.

Grgich Hills 2010 Chard Cap

Pouring a glass, the color is a pale golden yellow with aromas of tropical fruit and a touch of citrus. Tastes of peaches, dried fruit and a sweet, rich and creamy perfumed flavors comes forth on the palate, together with a slight spicy mineral rustic finish, to me is not your typical California Chardonnay. This Chardonnay stands out from the rest and should be on your “must try” list for the summer.

Cheers!

Exceptional Red

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Marques de Murrieta 2007 Res

Marqués de Murrieta 2007 Rioja Reserva

I recently reviewed Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta’s Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2005, see my June 27, 2014 Cellar Selection review, which is their outstanding flagship wine made only in exceptional years. Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta was founded by Luciano Francisco Ramon de Murrieta in 1852.  He spent his youth in Peru and then moved to London.  In 1844, Luciano settled in Spain and decided to make wine.  In 1878, he purchased the 300-hectares Ygay Estate in the Rioja Alta.  Queen Isabel II made him Marquesado de Murrieta; and so the estate of Marqués de Murrieta was born.  In 1983, Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta was sold to Vicente Cebrián-Sagarriga, Count of Creixell, the father of Vicente Dalmau Cebrián-Sagarriga. Today, Vicente’s son, Vicente Dalmau is in charge, with his sister Cristina, together with their technical director Maria Vargas.  Their vines are dominated by Tempranillo, accounting for 75% of the vineyard, with Mazuelo, Garnacha and Graziano largely making up the rest.

Since I enjoyed their Ygay Gran Reserva so much I wanted to try some of their other wines.  Grabbing a bottle of the Marqués de Murrieta 2007 Rioja Reserva, I poured a glass and noticed a deep ruby red color glistening in my glass.  The bouquet was very clean, nice crisp red fruit with a slightly floral aroma.  The taste was traditional for a Rioja, as the wine is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha, 6% Mazuelo, and 1% Graciano, aged in American oak for 20 months and an additional 2 years in the bottle before being released.  On the palate, the wine was complex with layers of fresh berry flavors, slight spicy/smoky oak with neat tannins and a sweet mineral finish, all related to the combination of soil and the grape varieties.  At $25 this is an exceptional offering from Marqués de Murrieta and should not be missed.

Cheers!

Exceptional White

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Patz-Hall 2012 Dutton

Patz & Hall 2012 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay

I recently reviewed Patz & Hall 2011 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, see July 22, 2014.  I thought the wine was impressive, but in 2012 the growing season was longer and cooler allowing the winemaker to pick the fruit at the peak of ripeness.  As luck turned out I was eating dinner at Delmar restaurant in Chatham, MA, on Cape Cod, and their wine list had Patz & Hall’s Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, but listed the 2011 vintage.  I asked the bartender Tim to root around and see if they might have the 2012 vintage.  Eureka, Tim came back with a 2012 Dutton Ranch.  Founded by 4 individuals Patz & Hall is one of California’s premier wineries.

As I mentioned above the 2012 growing season was long and cool allowing the grapes to achieve perfect ripeness and picking the fruit at optimal conditions can lead to producing a spectacular wine.  In contrast, the 2011 growing season was extremely cool resulting in a very small crop, with tiny berries in small clusters. Dutton Ranch is one of several single vineyard Chardonnay’s offered by Patz & Hall.  The 2012 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay was aged in Burgundian oak barrels (40% new).  Tim opened the bottle for us and, although the lighting at the bar was low, I noticed a light straw yellow color and light aromas of fresh fruit, mostly apples and pears, slightly citrus and floral notes.  On the palate, the flavor was rich and exploded with layered flavors of pear, apple and vanilla bean.  The wine had a slight mineral taste with nice oak that caught the back of my palate ending off with a creamy finish.   The 2012 was definitely better than the 2011.  I rarely say this for Chardonnay, but I believe that the 2012 Dutton Ranch will gain some additional benefit with a little cellaring.  I will look for a bottle and report back on this wine in about a year (if I can wait that long).  However, pick up a bottle of the 2012 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, it is outstanding, definitely one of my favorites.

Cheers!

Exceptional White

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Stags Leap 2012 Napa Chard

Stags’ Leap Winery 2012 Napa Chardonnay

Stags’ Leap Winery, (note the placement of the apostrophe), produces the Chardonnay I will review today. The use of “Stags Leap” may be confusing. Another nearby winery named, “Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars” produces excellent wines as well, also note the placement of that apostrophe. Lastly, there is the Stags Leap District, which is the name of the appellation where the two aforementioned wineries are located. The Stags Leap District (no apostrophe) is renowned for producing outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, is located between the Napa River and the Stags Leap Palisades.

One of California’s earliest wine estates, a unique terroir and ideal microclimate support a classical standard of viticulture, land use, and winemaking that is as relevant today as it was over a century ago. An intimate valley within the greater Napa Valley, Stags’ Leap is a place of natural beauty, storied buildings and gardens, a lively history, and a reputation for elegant wines showing finesse and intensity. A fashionable country resort in the mid-twentieth century, popular with Hollywood due to its 1892 Stone Manor House and historic gardens, legends of bootleggers and gangsters, ghosts and gypsies, Stags’ Leap has been home to three major family groups up through the modern revitalization of the winery that began in the 1970s. Stags Leap Manor, as it was called in the 1920s, was known as one of the prominent country retreats in the Napa Valley at a time when resort and spa business was big. Founders Horace and Minnie Mizner Chase entertained on a lavish scale, and in addition to lodging and dining, amenities included lawn tennis, swimming, horseback riding, children’s activities, golf, music, cards, a library, and Napa Valley wines and liquors (prior to and after Prohibition).

Opening the 2012 Chardonnay, I noticed a wonderful bouquet of fresh stone fruit flavors swirling with some tropical citrus aromas. This Chardonnay was very crisp and clean with a citrus melon flavor with, an every so light, toasty finish. Summer is still going strong so grab a few bottles of this elegant wine and relax. At $25 it is a great price for a summer favorite.

Cheers!

Cellar Selection

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Pio Cesare 2009 Barolo

Pio Cesare 2009 Barolo

The Pio Cesare Winery was founded in 1881 by Cesare Pio. He was one of the very first wine producers to believe in the great potential and quality of Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera and in the other great wines of Piemonte. Cesare Pio in the second half of the 1800s, was among the very first winemakers to produce these wines with a philosophy that was dedicated to the terroir and the strictest quality of the wine. For five generations, the Pio Cesare family has been producing traditional Piemontese wines in its ancient cellars, located in the center of the town of Alba. The cellars walls date back to the Roman Empire period, 50 B.C. Recently, significant investments have been made to rebuild and restructure the cellars and the winery’s facilities.

Pio Cesare owns more than 50 hectares (130 acres) of vineyards, located in the most highly rated and better exposed areas. Within the Barolo region, the “Ornato” Estate and the “Colombaro” Vineyard (in Serralunga d’Alba), the “Gustava” Estate (in Grinzane Cavour), the “Roncaglie” (in La Morra) and “Ravera” (Barolo-Novello). In addition to its own vineyards, Pio Cesare has fostered long-term relationships with growers for several generations and manages all aspects of viticulture in these vineyards. These growers have been selling grapes to the family for generations. The production of the wines of Pio Cesare is intentionally limited in order to maintain their high quality. Year after year, the wines are ranked among the world’s best and most highly regarded.

Opening a bottle of this 2009 classic Barolo of 100% Nebbiolo grapes, I decanted it for 45 minutes before giving it a sniff or tasting it, although I was tempted! The Barolo was aged in French Oak for 3 years! Finally pouring a glass I noticed a rich deep ruby red color with a full bouquet of ample black fruit, blackberries, ripe dark cherries, leathery with a touch of lively spice, pepper and fennel, almost floral, a real chewy Barolo which will only get better. This wine has an excellent structure and balance with supple tannins and was a delight to drink now. I picked up a few more of these gems to put down in my cellar for a later date as I believe this Barolo will age well for years to come. At around $50 this is a great value.

Cheers!

Mid-Week White

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Byron Chard 2011

Byron 2011 Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley

In 1984 Ken Brown founded Byron, with a plan to produce spectacular Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County.  The good news at that time was that Chardonnay produced on Santa Barbara had established a solid reputation for its tropical, buttery offerings.  The Santa Maria Bench – Byron’s home – is less than 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean allowing for cool ocean air to sweep through.  Note: Bench is a geographical term meaning the shoulder of a mountain.  It’s that part of the hillside where the steep incline begins its rise, and in Byron’s case, roughly 500 – 800 feet above sea level.  The bench contributes largely to the style, texture, aromatics, flavors and intensity of Byron wines.  The unique mineral content and drainage capabilities of bench soil separate it from plots on the valley floor. Byron also makes great Pinot Noir which I will comment on one of their offerings in a future review.

Uncorking a bottle, I notice a nice golden straw yellow color when pouring a glass.  I immediately noticed a slight earthy aroma followed by some lemony notes.  The flavor developed well in the glass and layered tastes of citrus, apple, pear and white peaches, almost creamy.  The finish showed a light toasty oak with a hint of sweet spice.  The Chardonnay was aged for 9 months in 100% French oak (15% new).  Very crisp and well-structured offering from Byron.   Tasty, especially the $20 price tag!  Don’t miss this one.

Cheers!

Mid-Week White

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Willm 2012 Riesling Res

Willm 2012 Riesling Reserve

Founded in 1896 by the Willm Family, Alsace Willm was the first Alsace producer to export wines to the United States after Prohibition.  Alsace Willm is located about 20 miles south of Strasbourg in Barr on the Route du Vin d’Alsace, which is the “Wine Road of Alsace”.  Alsace Willm produces a selection of outstanding Alsace wines, both still and sparkling, as well as some Grand Crus.

The 2012 Reserve Riesling is 100% Riesling that is aged for about 3 months on its lees, with bottling occurring about 10 months after the harvest.  Note: “Lees” refers to deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate, or are carried by the action of fining to the bottom of a vat of wine after fermentation and aging.  Opening a bottle and pouring a glass I noticed a light bright golden yellow and aromas of floral, citrus and ripe sweet peaches.  The palate transforms the fruit into a full rich tropical fruit flavor with a slight sour mineral tang, allowing the distinctive Riesling flavor to come on the finish.  Truly a great value and a bargain for a Riesling lover at $12.  Even if you are not normally into a Riesling, it is an absolute “must” to try this one before it gets away.

Cheers!

Mid-Week White

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CH St Jean 2011 Robert Young Chard Alex Valley

Chateau St. Jean 2011 Chardonnay Robert Young Vineyards

Not long ago, I commented on Chateau St. Jean’s 2011 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast, today I am going to comment on their single vineyard Chardonnay from the Robert Young Vineyards.  The estate of Chateau St. Jean is located at the foot of Sugarloaf Ridge in the Sonoma Valley near Kenwood, California.  The estate was founded in 1973 and recognized as a true leader in “Vineyard Designated” wines.  The winemaker, Margo Van Staaveren, brings with her 30 years of experience and draws out the best that Chateau St. Jean vineyards has to offer.

The Robert Young Vineyard is tucked away in a protected cove at the northern end of Alexander Valley, and has a long history of growing superior wine grapes in its fine sandy soil. Robert Young saw an opportunity to custom tailor a Chardonnay clone that was best suited for his vineyard site.  Using the best selection from his original plantings of the Wente clone, Robert Young had his “Robert Young Clone” certified in 1989. Chateau St. Jean produces both a vineyard designated Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc from this famous vineyard.

I opened a bottle of Robert Young Vineyard, chilled at about 50 degrees, and noticed a clean aroma of fresh fruit, apples, pear and citrus with a hint of lemon.  The glistening straw yellow color warmed my glass as I was pouring the wine.  Tasting the wine I noticed it was somewhat richer than their Sonoma Coast offering with good fruit structure, almost creamy, bringing forth a toasty oak flavor, clean acidity, and a mineral finish of medium length.  A nice offering for about $25.

Cheers!

Cellar Selection

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La Rioja Alta Vina Arena 1994

La Rioja Alta S.A. 1994 Viña Arana Reserva

On the 10th of July 1890, five Basque and Rioja families shared their passion for wine and founded “Sociedad Vinicola De La Rioja Alta” in what is known as the Haro Station District.  That day was the start of an ongoing searching for excellence that their descendants still pursue today.  The company changed its name to “LA RIOJA ALTA” in 1891, and in 1941 the company took on its present name, LA RIOJA ALTA, S.A. A year later, chairman of the board, Leandro Ardanza Angulo, registered the renowned brand name, “Viña Ardanza”.

To give you a little taste of the town of Haro, in the La Rioja region of northern Spain, every year on June 29th, the day of the patron saint San Pedro, the Haro Wine Festival is held.  The festival involves wine drinking competitions and contests and a Batalla de Vino (Battle of Wine), beginning at 7am, with a procession of people old and young, dressed in white shirts and red scarves, all carrying jugs, bottles, botas and other types of containers filled with red wine.  The wines are poured at each other from buckets, squirt guns, or any other device that sprays.  You start off wearing a white shirt and it is pinky-red when the battle is over.  The Town of Haro provides all the wine.  Check out the Haro Wine Festival link and photo below.

Haro Wine Fest

It was my birthday recently, so I wanted to order something special from one of my favorite restaurants (I am not mentioning the restaurant because I do not want the bartender to get in trouble).  I ordered a 1994 R. Lopez de Heredia Gran Reserva, however he showed up with the 1994 La Rioja Alta S.A. Viña Arana Reserva, and started to cut the foil when I commented to him it was the wrong wine.  After checking the computer he indicated they didn’t have any more 1994 R. Lopez de Heredia, but since it was my birthday he offered to give me the 1994 Viña Arana Reserva for the same price (although the price was 50% more at a whopping $188).  How could I pass this up? He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Opening the bottle and pouring a glass the color was still gorgeous for a 1994, a dazzling light ruby red which kept my excitement level high!  This Viña Arana Reserva is comprised of Tempranillo and Graciano from Rodezno and Labastida.  The wine, after months in century old vats was placed in 225 litre American oak casts in March of 1995, for three years, then bottled in 1998.  Aromas of full ripe fruit, black cherries and blackberries, with some spicy/peppery notes.  The palate revealed a complex structure with layers upon layers of flavors.  The dark red fruit exploded on the senses with that very typical Rioja earthy mineral flavor, adding touches of spice, cedar, tobacco and the slightest suggestions of oak all winding up with an enjoyable finishing.  This 1994 Viña Arana Reserva was still tasting extremely well and will continue to do so for some time to come, although if you can get your hands on a bottle open it up and enjoy!

Cheers!