Browsing the blog archives for January, 2010

2004 Chateau Siran

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Tasting Note

I originally intended to drink this bottle of Chateau Siran for Varietal Voyage No.15, but a funny thing happen on the way to the cellar…

Bordeaux is the source for some of the best cabernet sauvignon in the world, so this seemed the logical place to go for the last wine in this series.  With the exception of a few chateaux, red Bordeaux from the “left bank” (west side of the Gironde River) is typically a blend of several grapes with cabernet sauvignon being the dominant grape in the blend.  Chateau Siran just happens to be one of those exceptions, with merlot being the predominant grape (50%) and the rest being cabernet sauvignon (35%), and petite verdot (15%).  Of course, I didn’t realize this until I did a little more research about the chateau.  The Varietal Voyage was intended to explore the the subtle differences between many different grape varieties from all over the world.  Since this wine has more merlot that cabernet sauvignon, we felt that it didn’t fit into this flight.  With that said, we’ll defer the final wine in this series until next week.  C’est la vie!

Chateau Siran has been in existence since the 1420′s when the feudal lord, Guilhem de Siran was given control over the surrounding lands. For the next 430 years ownership of the lands changed hands several times over.  By the end of the 17th century Chateau Siran had developed a reputation for creating quality wines.  In 1859, four years after the famed 1855 Classification, the Miailhe family took ownership of Chateau Siran.  One hundred fifty years and five generations later the Miailhe family still owns Chateau Siran and continues to make top quality wines.

The vineyards of Chateau Siran lie in the gravely river beds of the Margaux appellation, just north of the city of Bordeaux.  Sharing much of the same soil and terroir of its first growth cousin, Chateau Margaux, it’s speculated that the quality of Siran’s wines are equal to, if not better than many of chateaux listed in the 1855 Classification. The soil, composed mostly of sand and gravel, has excellent drainage forcing the vines to grow deep to find water and nutrients.  The flat terrain and quality of the soil, combined with the time honored techniques of the winemakers create wines with the famed character and age worthiness found only in Bordeaux.

Tasting Notes:

Sue and I are relatively new to Bordeaux wines so this was a fun learning experience.  I found the ’04 Siran ($50) to be thoroughly enjoyable, but Sue was a little less impressed. One thing that Sue noticed was a faint odor of burnt rubber, a smell sometimes found in young wines due to the sulphur compounds created during in the wine making process.  Good thing is that this is almost always temporary and blows off quickly.  Thankfully the aromas of black raspberries and currants quickly took over, revealing themselves amongst flavors reminiscent of Chambord (minus the syrupy sweetness) with well-balanced acidity.  Throughout each sip was an underlying backbone of minerals and silky tannins, a classic trait of  Bordeaux wines.  Notes of vanilla and cinnamon carried over into a pleasant finish.

2008 Tabali Reserva Especial Pinot Noir

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Tasting Note

Last night was the official grand opening for Grapes & Tastes, the new wine shop in Cedarburg.  The owners, Brad and Joni, were busy greeting the public and making sure everyone felt welcome.  Sue and I perused shelves full of interesting (and affordable) bottles from around the world while sampling some curious South African wines and nibbling on delicious hors d’oeuvres. Eric, a member of G & T’s friendly and very knowledgeable staff, greeted us and asked all of the right questions, looking to discover our particular tastes.  He quickly steered us to a several selections suited to our palates and our budget. We took Eric’s advice and picked a young Chilean pinot noir and some gourmet cheese to pair with it.  I’m happy to say that Eric’s suggestion was spot on.  The 2008 Tabali Reserva Especial Pinot Noir ($22) is excellent!  Here is a little bit about Tabali…

The Tabali vineyards and winery are in the Limari Valley, one of Chile’s most northern grape growing regions.  On the edge of the Valle del Encanto (Enchanted Valley), Tabali’s vineyards grow in a sunny, semi-arid climate kept in check by the high altitude and cooling effects of fog that flows in every morning from the Pacific Ocean. This tempering of the climate keeps the grapes from ripening too quickly and produces wines of great depth and character.

Tasting Notes:

I’m happy we took Eric’s advice. This wine has all of the characteristics of a fine pinot noir at a very affordable price.  Soft, fruity aromas of cherries and strawberries amplify juicy flavors of strawberries and tart cranberries with bright acidity. Ten months of aging in French oak barrels creates a lingering toasty finish of vanilla and peppery spice.

Thanks to the entire G&T team for the fun experience.

Cline Cellars 2007 Ancient Vines Mourvèdre

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Tasting Note

Mourvèdre, sometimes called monastrell or mataró, is commonly used as a blending grape in Rhone-style wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape or as the silent partner to some of California’s finest zinfandels.  Mourvèdre adds structure and finesse to common blends, elevating them to some of the most sought after wines. You almost never see this grape used in a single-varietal bottling because so little of it is grown around the world, but when it is grown in the right location, by the right people, you get a spectacular wine!  Such is the case for Cline Cellars‘ Ancient Vines Mourvèdre!

Fred Cline’s Oakley ranch, located 40 miles east of San Francisco, is home to some of California’s oldest plantings of these rare vines (80-120 years old). The vineyards, situated in the midst of Contra Costa’s sprawling parking lots and big box stores, are in a setting far less idyllic than southern France or the picturesque Napa Valley.  The Cline family planted these vineyards five generations ago, long before the real estate boom engulfed California.  Here they soon recognized that the land was blessed with the perfect conditions for growing hearty grapes like mourvèdre.  The hot, almost desert-like conditions during the day are tempered by the cooling effects of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers at night.  The weather combined with sandy, well-drained soils forces the old vines to struggle, producing a small amount of very intensely flavored and structured fruit.

Tasting Notes:

Cline Cellars’ Ancient Vines Mourvèdre ($16) is one of life’s guilty pleasures.  I found its musky aromas of ripe plums and black cherries strangely seductive, with essences of cedar and coffee that draw you in further into the glass.  The palate is a blend of full-bodied blackberry and cherry liqueur flavors with a wonderfully balanced, tannic finish of dark chocolate that leaves you longing for more.  And it gets even better!  If you liked it on day one, hold on to it for another day or two (if you have the will power) and observe how the flavors and aromas become more rich and complex!  Decanting or aerating may speed this along, but this is one is well worth waiting for.

Varietal Voyage No.14 – 2005 Carlos Pulenta “Tomero” Cabernet Sauvignon

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Varietal Voyage

Varietal Voyage No. 14 is another selection from the Thief Wine Shop.  This time we’re exploring an affordable cabernet sauvignon from the high-altitude vineyards of Argentina. The 2005 Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon is just one of the many offerings from Carlos Pulenta Wines.   If you get a chance, try their Vistalba wines, blends of malbec, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and a grape called “bonarda.”

Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon gets its start in the upper Uco Valley, 80 miles southeast of Mendoza, in a vineyard called Finca Los Alamos. Carlos Pulenta and his family have been growing grapes here for over thirty years.  This location is excellent for growing cabernet.  The high altitude (1,200 meters above sea level), long sun exposures, sandy/rocky soils, and constant mountain breezes work together to create concentrated wines with intense flavors.  One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in this tough environment is getting access to water.  The only real source of water is the snow and ice that falls in the Andes mountains.  As  the ice melts, it eventually makes its way down into the valleys below.  During the 1800′s, as farms and vineyards grew larger, there became a need to control the limited supply of water.  The tomero or “water supplier” was the person in charge of  regulating the precious supply of water by opening and closing flood gates that fed the fields.  Even though technology has taken control over most of the irrigation process, the tomero still stands as a symbol of Argentina’s agricultural history.

That’s enough history!  All in all, this is another good, affordable cabernet.  It has many of the characteristics of an Argentine malbec, with its medium body and ample amounts of ripe fruit and jammy flavors.  The nose shows spicy aromas of blackberries, currants, with juicy flavors of black cherries, followed up by layers of pepper and cedar.  The tannins were soft, almost non-existent; something I didn’t expect from such a young cabernet.  The finish is quick and clean leaving you with the faintest hints of cocoa.

2005 Carlos Pulenta “Tomero” Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

2006 Nick DeRose, Sr. Zinfandel

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Tasting Note

Fortune smiled upon me a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to try the 2006 Nick DeRose, Sr. Zinfandel ($26) from DeRose Vineyards.  Having sampled several other wines from DeRose, including another incredible zinfandel, and I think this is one of their best.  The 2006 vintage is a tribute bottling to the late Nick DeRose, Sr.,  whose influence and guidance has helped make his family’s wines what they are today.

The DeRose vineyards are located in one of the best locations for growing zinfandel – California’s Cienega Valley.  Located high in the Gabilan mountains about 25 miles east of Monterey Bay, the vineyards are sheltered from the cool Pacific breezes on the west and the intense summer heat of the San Joaquin Valley to the east.  Here the grapes enjoy warm, sunny days, developing their rich color and flavors.  Cool nights let the grapes rest, helping them retain the much needed acidity to balance out these powerful wines.

Nick’s vintage is created from four blocks of estate grown fruit.  A small six-acre parcel planted in the early 1980′s provides the backbone for the blend and three other blocks of dry farmed “old vines,” originally planted in the late 1890′s, give this zinfandel its depth and intensity.

Tasting Notes:

This bold, full-bodied zinfandel is a fitting metaphor for Nick DeRose’s bold and charismatic personality.  Bold fragrances of blackberries and spicy black cherries filled the room when the first glass was poured.  Swirling the seductive scarlet and purple wine revealed long, silky “legs” coating the inside of the glass, preparing you for the sensory experience ahead.  The flavors are equally as bold and intense as the aromas.  Briary raspberries and blackberries blend together seamlessly with hints of dark cherry and freshly ground black pepper. All of these rich aromas and flavors are masterfully balanced with wine’s the lofty alcohol content (16.4% ABV), leaving you with a long-lasting finish of exotic spices and soft tannins.

Stealing Time For Some Great Wine

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Tasting Note

After running a few errands in downtown Milwaukee, I found that I had a little time on my hands.  It had been a while since I visited the Public Market so I decided to stop in at the Thief Wine Shop & Bar and sample a few wines.  With several hours before the start of Gallery Night (our local quarterly art review), the owners, Phil and Aimee were already busy serving patrons. Once I found a spot to settle down, I selected a few interesting wines from their wide assortment of wines by the glass, flight, or bottle.

The first wine I tried was a young, but elegant  pinot noir from New Zealand’s Marlborough region.  The 2008 Oyster Bay Pinot Noir ($17.50) has everything you would expect from a cool climate pinot noir with its bright acidity and tart red fruit flavors.  Hidden in the pale ruby color are fragrant flavors of ripe cranberries, cherries and pomegranate with the softest hints of tannin.  Don’t let the light color fool you.  This pinot noir has a pleasant body and mouthfeel with a generous backbone of crisp acidity.

Next up was a Chilean carménère born in the foothills of the Andes mountains.  The 2007 Terra Andina Reserva Carménère ($11.50) was a world apart from the delicate kiwi pinot noir. Terra Andina makes this wine from 100% carménère grown in the Rapel Valley near Santiago.  With deep red and violet hues, its aromas are alive with plums, black currants and blackberries, backed up with layers of cedar and spice.  Its balanced flavors and rich body are enhanced by soft tannins that build throughout the lengthy finish.

The third wine on the list is from Napa Valley.  Madrigal’s 2006 Zinfandel ($17.50) is even bigger and bolder than the previous two wines.  Located in Calistoga at the northern tip of Napa Valley, the winemakers at Madrigal get their grapes from some of the best zinfandel vineyards in the valley. In true zinfandel style, this is a juicy, fruit-forward powerhouse!  Heady aromas of black raspberries and dark cherries fold into rich layers of vanilla and spice.  The flavors are full-bodied, delivering a punch of spicy red berries wrapped in vanilla and caramel following up with a generous finish of pepper and cocoa.

To finish out the quartet, I selected a Spanish sherry from González Byass.  “Solera 1847″ Oloroso Dulce ($11.95) is a sweet sherry made from Palomino and Pedro Ximénez (sometimes called “PX”).  The name of this sherry comes from original solera laid down in 1847 by González and Byass in Jerez, Spain. Within its golden brown, coffee-like tones are alluring scents of raisins, figs, and orange peel blended with a myriad of woody spices.  Creamy flavors of toffee, vanilla and dried fruits are balanced with soft acidity that ties it all together.  Perfect for a cold January afternoon!

Varietal Voyage No.13 – 2007 “337″ Cabernet Sauvignon

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Varietal Voyage

Over the past few months we’ve tasted twelve white wines from around the world.   The next wine represents the beginning of the second half of our journey. For the next three months we’ll explore the world of red wines, starting with cabernet sauvignon.

337 Cabernet Sauvignon is made by, ironically, 337 Wines, one of the many brands owned by Delicato Family Vineyards,  “337″ is more than a catchy brand name strategy, it is the name of a special clone of cabernet sauvignon that originated in Bordeaux, France. The winemakers at 337 cultivate this clone in the fertile, but rocky soils of Clay Station Vineyard, north of Lodi, at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The climate here is well suited to this clone, where hot, dry days force the vines to struggle for water and cool nights allow the grapes to rest, slowing the ripening process and concentrating the fruit flavors.

Over the years I’ve gotten used to the idea that if you wanted drink a good California cabernet you had to endure some sticker shock – not so with 337. This one came as a pleasant surprise to the palate and the wallet!  Since this is such a young wine, the color is very intense with a captivating reddish purple hue that is nearly opaque (Don’t spill it on anything you can’t afford to throw out).  Being that it is so young, I expected lots of aggressive tannins.  Again I was surprised.  337 has well balanced tannins with juicy flavors of black cherries and currants and fruity aromas that seam to jump out of the glass. These rich flavors are followed up by layers of vanilla and black pepper toward the finish.  Enjoy this one with your next grilled steak or as a guilty (but affordable) pleasure!

2007 “337″ Cabernet Sauvignon ($11)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Good Things Come In 3′s – A Sparkling New Year!

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Tasting Note

With 2009 being a year full of ups and downs, Sue an I were determined to start 2010 off right.  And what better way to start the new year than with Champagne and sparkling wine!  For this year we selected three very different wines from three very different places, each with it’s own unique style.  One with a distinguished pedigree; one from a small, rural producer; and one from an up-and-coming estate in a place you would not expect to find great sparkling wines.

The first sparkler of the evening was from Point Reyes Winery in Point Reyes Station, California, one of the few wineries in Marin County. This non-vintage blanc de blanc is made according to the traditional methods pioneered in Champagne, France.  The winemakers and owners, Steve and Sharon Doughty make their sparkling wines from all estate-grown fruit, and it shows.  Their location on the Pacific coast is well suited to growing chardonnay, where ocean breezes keep the grapes from ripening too quickly, allowing the fruit to retain its fresh acidity.  As the name implies, blanc de blancs are 100% chardonnay and this one exploded with all of the fresh, crisp flavors you might expect from a young, cool weather chardonnay.  The appley, citrus flavors were quite refreshing with prickly acidity delivered by a froth of fine bubbles.  This sparkler didn’t have the biscuity undertones that you would normally expect and the finish is short and clean, making it little one-dimensional, but still very delicious, especially for $25!  If you are looking to buy a bottle, your best bet is to contact the winery directly or stop in and visit their tasting room.

The next bottle of bubbly was a fantastic Champagne produced by Gonet-Medeville.  “Tradition,” as it is called, is a brut style, premier cru Champagne from the village of Bisseuil, France. Sue and I were fortunate enough to try this one at a Champagne tasting hosted by the Waterford Wine Company two days earlier, so we had a good idea what to expect. What we didn’t expect was how much better it was going to get! “Tradition” is a blend of the three grapes normally associated with fine champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir, and an obscure grape called pinot menuier.  The winemaker, Xavier Gonet, has blended these three grapes (70% chardonnay, 25% pinot noir, 5% pinot meunier) into a fine cuvée that evokes romantic images of rustic French villages on the chalky hillsides of Champagne.  Complex flavors and aromas of ripe apples, zesty citrus and fresh baked brioche meld seamlessly with the creamy, almond infused mousse.  The lengthy finish leaves you wanting more long after the bottle is empty!  Pricey ($52) but well worth it!

Last, and certainly not least, we finished our New Year’s celebration with an elegant vintage sparkling wine from the east coast.  The 2004 Kluge Estate Blanc de Blanc comes to us from Albemarle County in the state of Virginia, a location you would not normally associate with great sparkling wines. Kluge Estate Winery is a relatively new winery (1999) nestled into the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia and is doing some great things with sparkling wines.  Winemaker Charles Gendrot and wine consultant Laurent Champs (owner of Vilmart et Cie in Champagne, France) painstakingly crafted this blanc de blanc from Kluge’s best chardonnay. The end result is a vibrant wine with finely focused apple and pear flavors and complex hints of warm toast and roasted almonds. It has a creamy mouthfeel with tight bubbles and a clean, zesty finish.  As an American sparkling wine, I found this blanc de blanc to be just as thought provoking and delicious as the Gonet-Medeville at fraction of the price ($32)!

This might be a good time to make a New Year’s resolution – Try one new Champagne or sparkling wine each month throughout the year.  There are so many great wines out there it seems a shame to relegate sparkling wines to only holidays or special events. Wouldn’t life be more interesting if we drank champagne just for the fun of it?

Here’s to a bright and promising new year. Cheers!