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!

Cellar Selection

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Ruffino Riserva Ducale 2008 Oro

Ruffino 2008 Gold Label Riserva Ducale Oro

I recently discussed and reviewed Ruffino 2010 Tan Label Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico, (see June 20, 2014 review). Briefly I mentioned that Ruffino has a long history and enjoys more than a century of fine winemaking in Tuscany. In 1870, two men (cousins) with a common dream founded Ruffino. Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino laid the foundation for what was to become one of the most known and loved Italian wineries in the world. One of the first and most prominent admirers of Ruffino wines was without doubt the Duke of Aosta, who at the end of the nineteenth century appointed Ruffino supplier to his house. The Duke’s appreciation was made official in the form of a Ducal certificate. From this event stems the origin of the name and the history of Riserva Ducale, born in 1927, a wine originally produced as Chianti Stravecchio, according to the production rules of the time, and subsequently reclassified as Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG. Twenty years after the first release of Riserva Ducale in 1927, Ruffino produced its first Riserva Ducale Oro to commemorate an exceptional vintage year. That tradition continues today. Riserva Ducale Oro is produced only in outstanding vintages. If the grapes don’t meet the winemaker’s exacting standards, the wine will not be made.

The 2008 Gold Label Riserva Ducale Oro seeks an even higher level of quality by starting with the finest, hand-harvested grapes, primarily from Ruffino’s Gretole, Santedame and Montemasso estates, and continuing with impeccable standards throughout all phases of winemaking. Because Riserva Ducale Oro is noted for its extraordinary cellaring, many of their past vintages can still be enjoyed today.

Ruffino’s 2008 Riserva Ducale Oro is comprised of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot grapes. The wine is aged for 36 months in vats, sits in French oak casts for 12 months and bottle aged for at least 6 months prior to release. Opening a bottle, which I let breathe for about 45 minutes, I notice a vibrant ruby red color that tones out to crimson edges. The aromas of red fruit, cherries, plums, and wild mushrooms are present on the nose. On the palate the fruit develops nicely with tangy cherries and dark fruit coming forth along with hints of sweet spice, tobacco and dark chocolate. The finish shows well developed tannins with a good balance of oak. This wine is a tremendous value for around $30 and you should grab a few bottles for the cellar as the increasing euro is putting pressure on the price.

Cheers!

Exceptional White

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P-Hall 2011 Dutton Ranch Chard

Patz & Hall 2011 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay Russian River Valley

I recently reviewed Patz & Hall 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, see July 11, 2014.  I was impressed by this wine I had to try Patz & Hall’s Dutton Ranch Chardonnay and was able to grab a 2011 vintage.  Founded by 4 individuals Patz & Hall is one of California’s premier wineries.

In 2011 the growing season was extremely cool resulting in a very small crop, with tiny berries in small clusters.  Such low yields heighten the wine’s concentration, density and texture.  Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, is one of several single vineyard Chardonnay’s offered by Patz & Hall.  Opening a bottle I notice a light warm pale yellow color and aromas of nice full ripe fruit, mostly peaches and pears, with a hint of lively citrus notes.  The palate transforms into a rich approachable pleasant wine that tastes of structured flavors of green fruit with some pineapple and lemon citrus topped off with a light mineral and toasty oak finish.  I thought this wine was outstanding, however I do prefer their 2012 Sonoma Coast offering I previously reviewed.  I understand that the 2012 growing season was longer than 2011 allowing the fruit to fully develop and letting the winemaker pick the fruit at the optimal time.  That said, I will get my hands on a 2012 Dutton Ranch and provide a comparison review.  Pick up a bottle, make 2011/2012 comparison yourself and let me know. Until then!

Cheers!

Exceptional Red

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Beringer 2010 Knights Valley Cab

Beringer 2010 Knights Valley Caberinet Sauvignon

Beringer Vineyards roots date back about 140 years ago when Jacob Beringer sailed from his home in Mainz Germany to New York. After arriving in the “new world”, Jacob heard that the rocky hillside soil and fertile valley floor of Napa Valley resembled that of the vineyards back home in Germany. Jacob, and his brother Frederick, headed for Napa and purchased 215 acres of land in 1875, becoming one of the first wineries in Napa. A lot of time has passed and Beringer has perfected its craft of making fine wines, balancing time-tested traditions with modern technology, resulting in a portfolio of admired vineyards, including the distinctive Knights Valley.

Knights Valley has been owned and farmed by the Beringer family since the 1960’s and is located in the northeastern corner of Sonoma. Its soils are sedimentary and cobbled, perfect for growing high quality wines. In 1983, Knights Valley was established as a new appellation approved by the American Viticultural Area. The 2010 Knights Valley Cabernet is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc.

Pouring a glass (after 45 minute decanting) I noticed a gorgeous deep garnet color and aromas of dark fruit, plums, cherries, berries and sweet dried fruit with a hint of spicy chocolate. The taste was surprisingly silky smooth with a touch of warm oak and firm tannins. This Cabernet will rival others at twice the price. For under $25, it’s a real winner. Grab a steak and you have a great meal! Visit their website and try the recipe for Pineapple Gazpacho Shots!

Cheers!

Mid-Week White

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Heitz 2012 Napa Chardonnay

Heitz Cellars 2012 Napa Chardonnay

In 1961, Joe and Alice Heitz purchased their first vineyard, 8 acres just south of St. Helena.  Working out of their small California winery attached to the land they purchased, they put in round-the-clock sweat equity to build their business. Heitz Wine Cellars rapidly established a reputation as home base for one of the Napa Valley’s most innovative and brilliant winemakers, and the unassuming winery soon became a prestigious destination for wine connoisseurs.  In 1964, Heitz acquired 160-acre parcel in Spring Valley and began sharpening his skills on Cabernet Sauvignon, and in 1965, by chance, acquired a small vineyard in Oakville from Tom and Martha May.  In 1966, Joe Heitz had the foresight to single vineyard designate the Cabernet grapes from the May’s vineyard and crafted the renowned Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, initiating a concept in Napa Valley.  Joe’s winemaking mastermind was evident, and the acclamation for Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which continues for 48 years and counting, helped to usher California onto the world stage.  The Heitz family’s vision of winemaking spans for three generations now and they continue to strive for excellence by balancing nature and science, reflecting the unique geography within Napa Valley.

Yes, Heitz is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, however they make a noteworthy Chardonnay, and for not a hefty price!  I recently opened their 2012 Napa Chardonnay, and notice it is not like a typical California Chardonnay.  With a light golden color, the wine had fresh crisp citrus and light fruit aromas. The palate showed peach, golden apple and Asian pear flavors, slight lemony and buttery notes with good acidity and balance with the faintest hint of oak.  Not overly complex, but a refreshing Chardonnay for about $25.  I will soon start tasting and reviewing their wonderful Cabs!

Cheers!

Exceptional White

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Patz-Hall 2012 sonoma chard

Patz & Hall 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Patz & Hall was founded in 1988 by four individuals; Donald Patz, James Hall, Anne Moses and Heather Patz. Together, they have turned Patz & Hall into one of California’s premier wineries, with a renowned portfolio of single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. The seeds for Patz & Hall were planted in the 1980s when assistant winemaker James Hall and national sales manager Donald Patz struck up a close friendship while working together at Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards. The two discovered a mutual enthusiasm for a rich and compelling style of wine made by applying traditional winemaking techniques to fruit from elite, small vineyards. Inspired to combine their winemaking and sales talents, James and Donald joined with partners Anne Moses and Heather Patz, to establish Patz & Hall in 1988.

Opening a bottle of Sonoma Coast 100% Chardonnay, which was sourced from about 5 renowned vineyards, I observed a straw yellow color and immediately got the aromas of fresh ripe fruit and sweet notes of honey and a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. On the palate the fruit comes forth with layered flavors of green apple, citrus, sweet melon and white peaches. An undertone of mineral and oak makes this Chardonnay very clean and rich, a delight to drink. The Chardonnay was barrel aged, 38% in new Burgundian French oak. Don’t pass up this top shelf Chardonnay, around $30 it rivals Chardonnay costing $50+. I was so impressed by this wine, I will be trying one of their single vineyard Chardonnay’s soon.

Cheers!

Cellar Selection

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Chatdu Pape Les Closiers 1998 plus

Les Closiers Caves des Papes 1998 Chateauneuf de-Pape

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is an historic town in France’s southern Rhone Valley, famous for its full-bodied, spicy red wines (although it does also produce a small quantity of weighty, flavorful white). The name Chateauneuf-du-Pape means ‘new castle of the Pope’ and refers to the fact that nearby Avignon was chosen as the new home for the Pope’s court in the early 14th century. The pope in question (Clement V) also gave his name to the ancient and equally prestigious Chateau Pape Clement in Bordeaux’s Graves district. Ogier et Fils was founded by Christophe Ogier as a negociant firm in 1859. In 1948 Ogier became negociant-éleveur, he establsihed his own cellars for blending and ageing of the wines bought from producers. Some years later his firm was merged with another firm, Caves des Papes.  Until 2008 the firm was named Ogier – Caves des Papes.

My brother-in-law, Steve, came over for dinner and had this little gem tucked away in his cellar. We opened the wine and immediately concluded we needed to let this wine breathe for a bit before diving into it. When we finally poured a glass of this dark crimson ruby red wine we noticed an elegant bouquet of dark fruit, plums, black cherries and blackberries. Tasting the wine gave forth ripe fruit with earthy overtones, smoky leather and was slightly mineral. The wine was well balanced very subtle tannins and tasting well for a 1998. We did both agree that it was probably at its peak or beyond, and maybe heading downhill, and should not sit much longer in the bottle as no additional benefit would be derived. It was a very pleasant wine that should enjoyed now! If you happen to come across one at your local wine shop, pick it up and you won’t be disappointed.

Cheers!

Exceptional Red

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Phelps 2011 Freeston Vineyards Pinot

Joseph Phelps 2011 Pinot Freestone Vineyards

Exceptional Red for a Red, White & Blue Day!

I recently posted comments on Joseph Phelps 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, their regular Cabernet offering, and was extremely impressed with the wine I wanted to try their Pinot Noir and see how the quality matches up with his Vinification of other grapes.  I previously discussed That Joseph Phelps Vineyards is a family-owned winery founded in 1973, so refer to my May 2, 2014 Post to get additional background.

The philosophy of Joseph Phelps Vineyards is to maintain, preserve and (where possible and appropriate) ecologically enhance the natural vineyard environment.  While this goal is essential for present vineyard practices, it will have an even more profound effect on the development of maturing vineyards in the future.  Joseph Phelps Vineyards strive to achieve the greatest possible ecological health in their vineyards, and builds upon the sustainable vineyard practices they developed since the early 1980s, and gradually embracing a style of farming known as “biodynamic agriculture” or simply, “biodynamics.”  Biodynamics is the process of designing agriculture and farm management so that each farm becomes increasingly self-contained and self-supporting in every way possible.  By combining natural farming practices (such as composting, recycling of nutrients, careful water management, cover crops and so on) with natural “remedies” for deficiencies and seasonal changes (such as simple, non-toxic biological field and foliar sprays) biodynamics offers an ecologically advanced system that is readily tailored to the specific, local conditions of every farm, vineyard, orchard and/or garden towards self-sustainability.  Check out Joseph Phelps Vineyards website and read about their seven key ecological elements practiced at the vineyard.

Joe Phelps has had a life-long love affair with the wines of Burgundy and a desire to craft wines in that style so he searched for the perfect combination of climate, soil and location and found that recipe in Freestone, located in the Sonoma Coast, six miles from the Pacific Ocean.  In 1999, Phelps began developing 100 acres of vineyards just outside of Freestone, and today, 80 acres are devoted to Pinot Noir and 20 acres to Chardonnay.  Opening a bottle of 2011 Pinot from Phelps’ Freestone Vineyards (59% came from Pastorale and 41% came from Quarter Moon Vineyards) I noticed a bright ruby red color and aromas of sweet cherries, raspberries and vanilla spices leading to a rich mouth-watering taste of fresh red fruit with a slight citrus tang balanced with slight tannins on a fine finish.  This is worth a try if you want something special from Phelps.  The price is about $50.

Cheers!

Exceptional Red

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Vietti Barbera 2011

Vietti 2011 Barbera D’Alba Tre Vigne

The history and roots of the Vietti Winery dates back to the 19th Century, however the Vietti name was not used until the beginning of the 20th Century.  In 1919, Mario Vietti made the first Vietti wines which were mainly distributed in Italy.  Mario had a farm with other interests, however his love for wine enabled him to transform the family plantation into a grape growing and wine-producing business, and by 1952, under the guidance of Alfredo Currado (Luciana Vietti’s husband), was one of the top-level producers in Piemonte and one of the first wineries to export to the US market.  The Vietti Winery began to vinify grapes from a single vineyard, which was a radical concept at the time, however today virtually every vintner making Barolo and Barbaresco wines offer “single vineyard” designations.

In 1970, the Currados started to update their wine labels through their friendship and support of local artists.  The story goes, that in one long winter evening in Langa, a group of artists, eating and drinking together with the Currados (around a bottle of Barolo), suggested they “dress their art-work in the winery” with “an art-work on the label”.  Since then the Vietti wine labels took on their own unique form and continue today.

Getting to the 2011 Barbera D’Alba, the wine is 100% Barbera grapes from three vineyards in Monforte, Castiglione Falletto, and Castiglione Tinella.  The wine is aged for 14 months in Slovenian oak casks, French oak barrels and steel tanks.  The wine is bottled unfiltered.  Pouring a glass I noticed a medium ruby color with ripe berry fruit aromas and a hint of spice.  I have written about “Barbera d”Asti” previously, this wine I am tasting, a “Barbera D’Alba” is slightly fuller and fruitier in structure with traces of flowery fragments.  Tasting the 2011 Barbera D’Alba I detected forward fruit, cherries, blackberries and raspberries, subtle oak with soft tannins, slight spice and a nice finish.  A great Barbera D’Alba to open, and at under $30, is a great value.

Cheers!

Cellar Selection

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Ygay 2005 Gran Res Esp

Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2005

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.  Since taking over, Dalmau has been on a campaign to update his wines stylistically and stated: “We refused to change the identity.  But we added more fruit to the wine, we release the wines sooner, we use newer oak and we leave the wine in oak less time.”  The vines are dominated by Tempranillo, accounting for 75% of the vineyard, with Mazuelo, Garnacha and Graziano largely making up the rest and with lesser quantities of white varieties, including Viura, Malvasia and, unusually, Garnacha Blanca.

The traditional flagship wine of Marqués de Murrieta, Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial is made only in exceptional years.  Grape varieties: 93% Tempranillo, 7% Mazuelo, spends 29 months in American oak (new oak for the first 10 months), then spends 3 years in the bottle before being released to the market. There is very limited in production of this wine and it is sought after all over the world, truly one of Rioja’s greatest wines.

I was eating at the Barcelona Wine Bar in South Norwalk, CT when I came across a 2005 Ygay Gran Reserva Especial on their wine list.  If you are fortunate to visit Barcelona Wine Bar on a Sunday night, all of their wines are half price!  So the 2005 Ygay was half off $115, which is less than retail!  A no brainer!  Our bartender Holly was excited to open this gem for us as she has never tried it and was anxious to observe our reaction (We finally convinced her to have a taste as well).  The color of this wine was alluring, ruby red, but not too deep.  The bouquet was elegant, the aromas of cherries and berries, subtle spice with earthy tones.  I would like to point out that this is a very traditional tasting Rioja in part due to the grapes and the way the wine was crafted, aged long on oak and long in the bottle giving the wine great depth and character.  The wine is a blend of 89% Tempranillo and 11% Mazuelo , aged in oak for 30 months (American oak for Tempranillo and French oak for Mazuelo) and an additional 2 years in the bottle before being released.  The taste surly did not disappoint, the wine was silky smooth with layers of flavors tobacco, smoky cedar, dark fruit, vanilla spice very well balanced with firm tannins and a clean structure, ending with a nice lingering finish.  I cannot say enough about this wine.  If you are able to get your hands on a few bottles, tuck them away as they should be great well beyond 2020.  About 8,000 cases were made and retail is about $60.

Cheers!