Browsing the archives for the Tasting Note category

2007 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse

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Tasting Note

When you hear the word “Burgundy”, you might think of red wine or pinot noir.  But what many people do not know is that Burgundy can also be synonymous with white wine, in particular, chardonnay.  From Chablis to the Côte de Beaune to the Mâconnais you’ll find a wide variety of white-burgundies at an even wider range of price points.  Examples of the world’s best and most expensive chardonnays come from these regions as well as many outstanding wines with affordable price tags!

The vineyards within the appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé (pronounced Poo-yee Fwee-say) are scattered about the craggy hillsides and valleys found in the southern half of France’s Mâconnais district.  The soils here are well suited to chardonnay being composed mostly of limestone, slate, and clay.  Despite the fragmented geography of the area the appellation still manages to produce around 500,000 cases per year and is the source for many affordable Burgundian chardonnays.  Maison Louis Jadot has cultivated relationships with many growers in the region, providing equipment, barrels, and winemaking expertise. The wine that these growers produce is destined to be bottled under the Jadot label.  Maison Louis Jadot receives wines from the individual producers and carefully blends them together to create a style of wine that reflects the essence of Pouilly-Fuisse.

Tasting Notes

The Louis Jadot’s 2007 Pouilly-Fuisse ($22) has a light golden tone with vibrant aromas of grapefruit, lemon and toasty almonds.  Zesty citrus flavors intertwined with a firm backbone of minerality are supported by the structure of careful oak fermentation and aging.  Its medium body and clean, silky finish makes this a good partner for seafood and poultry.

Ramey Wine Cellars – 2005 Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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Tasting Note

A few weeks ago, Sue and I shared a bottle of David Ramey’s Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in tribute to a close friend who recently passed away.  We don’t normally drink wines of this caliber, mainly because of their rarity and price, but every once in awhile you need drink something extra special, even if it is for a somber occasion.  Sue and I looked at sharing this bottle as an enjoyable and memorable celebration of our friend’s life.

David Ramey is considered to be one of vanguards of the American wine industry.  For the past three decades he has used old-world techniques that emphasize terroir and applied them to new-world ideas helping elevate the quality and distinction of today’s California wines.

After graduating from UC Davis he worked for Château Pétrus where he learned the time-honored methods of winemaking from France’s top vignerons.  After returning from France, David helped establish some of California’s most well-known wineries including:  Chalk Hill, Matanzas Creek, Dominus Estate, and Rudd Estate.  In 1996, David and his wife Carla started Ramey Wine Cellars with the goal of creating great, terroir-specific wines using David’s unique blend of old and new-world methods.

Located in the town of Healdsburg in north-central Sonoma County, David Ramey and his team make a small variety of high quality, single-vineyard and appellation specific wines including several cabernet sauvignon blends, chardonnays, and a few syrahs.  The 2005 Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (a blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon and 15% petit verdot) is one of Ramey’s single-vineyard blends from the Pedregal Vineyard, on the stony slopes of Napa Valley’s Oakville district.  Through a long-term lease, Ramey Wine Cellars now has complete control over the vineyard and can make all of the critical management and harvesting decisions in order to get the best possible fruit for this unique wine.

Tasting Notes

It’s deep ruby, almost opaque color exudes a perfume of violets, cassis and dark cherries followed by aromas of coffee and bitter chocolate.  The succulent flavors of currants and ripe cherries are quite pronounced with just a touch of sweetness.  Undertones of cocoa, coffee, and earthy truffles add amazing complexity with a full-bodied richness that is intense but not overwhelming to the palate.  Even at this young age the tannins are silky and very approachable with plenty of aging potential.  Paired with a juicy, bone-in rib eye steak, this wine makes a great partner, but there is so much going on here that I would suggest drinking this wine on its own to fully appreciate every little nuance.

L’Ecole No.41 – 2007 Columbia Valley Chardonnay

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Tasting Note

You’ll find the L’Ecole No.41 Winery in a restored schoolhouse in the historic Walla Walla community of Frenchtown.  L’Ecole No.41 is a family run operation started by Jean and Baker Ferguson.  It now belongs to their daughter, Megan and her husband Martin Clubb.

The winery may be in Walla Walla, but the fruit for L’Ecole No.41′s Columbia Valley Chardonnay ($19) comes from several vineyards in Washington’s Columbia Valley appellation.  This part of the state lies near the 46th parallel giving it a similar amount of sunlight to the French regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy.  Combine the climate and volcanic soils with good drainage and poor nutrients, and you have ideal conditions for growing grapes.  The French winemaking traditions brought by French-Canadian pioneers that settled this region are echoed in this Burgundian-style chardonnay.

Tasting Notes

Barrel fermented with a backbone of nevry acidity and complex mineral notes, this wine reminded me of the fine white burgundies from Meursault. Pronounced aromas of apple and pear are layered with the slightest hints of pineapple.  Seven month of sur lie aging in French oak barrels gives this elegant wine a rich creamy texture and a long nutty finish.

We paired this one with a great recipe Sue found in Real Simple Magazine.  This chardonnay with the Potato, Leek and Feta Tart is fantastic!

Maison Alain Soutiran – Brut Perle Noire N.V.

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Tasting Note

The Soutiran family has made Champagne since the late 1950′s.  Based in Ambonnay, one of the seventeen grand cru villages in the Champagne district, Maison Alain Soutiran produces a variety of fine Champagnes including their Vintage Cuvée, Brut Grand Cru, Brut Blanc de Blanc, Cuvée Alexandre and last but not least, their Brut Perle Noire.

The quality of Ambonnay’s pinot noir is the reason that it was granted grand cru status, making Soutiran’s Brut Perle Noire ($60), a blanc de noir made from 100% pinot noir, all that more special.

What makes it even more special is that I was lucky to pick up several bottles at Grapes and Grain’s closing sale last year.  And to make things even better, I got them at 60% off the retail price!  Who says you can’t drink well in a down economy?

Tasting Notes:

Perle Noire’s rich golden hue has a wonderfully expressive bouquet of strawberries and tart cherries with mild earthy aromas.  The flavors are full-bodied flavors with a delicate structure that only pinot noir can give.  The yeasty character of fresh brioche adds further complexity to the cuvée.  The fine mousse and crisp acidity keep the intense flavors alive and dancing on your palate.  The dry finish is refined and long-lasting making this sparkler perfect for rich seafood like lobster or scallops.

Dashe Cellars – 2004 Todd Brothers Ranch Old Vines Zinfandel

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Tasting Note

Dashe Cellars has done it again with their 2004 Todd Brothers Ranch Old Vines Zinfandel ($29) , adding yet another powerful and sensuous zinfandel to their award winning portfolio!

Michael and Anne Dashe get the fruit for this rich wine from the Todd Brothers Ranch located  just north of Geyserville.  Gnarly, fifty year old zinfandel vines planted on steep, rocky slopes produce a very small amount of intensely flavored fruit. The unusual 2004 growing season, with its heavy spring rains reduced the vineyard’s yield even further making the zinfandel even more intense and complex.  Ultimately there was only enough fruit to make 466 cases of the 2004 vintage!

Tasting Notes:

It’s dark ruby and garnet color radiates with rich aromas of wild blackberries laden with cloves and allspice. Dashe’s carefully crafted blend of 98% zinfandel and 2% petite sirah reveals the opulent dark fruit flavors unique to the Todd Brothers Ranch vineyard.  The full-bodied, velvety flavors are further enhanced by the soft spicy character provided by fourteen months in french oak barrels.  Balanced acidity keeps the fruit flavors alive  through the sensuous and long-lasting finish.  Enjoy it now or hang on to it for awhile.  This succulent wine should continue to develop in the bottle for the next several years.  

Click here for more information from Dashe Cellars.

Tuscan Wines on the Horizon – New Wines from Le Miccine

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Tasting Note

I recently had the unique opportunity to taste four new wines from Le Miccine, an Italian winery in the heart of Tuscany.  The line-up consisted of a unique mono-varietal made from 100% vermentino, two chianti classicos, and a “super-tuscan” made from a blend of merlot and malvasia nera.

Left to right: ’08 I’aura, ’07 Don Alberto Chianti Classico Riserva, ’07 Chianti Classico, ’07 La Principessa

About Le Miccine…

When they purchased Le Miccine in 1996 Clifford Weaver and Donna Meneghetti Weaver took on the monumental task of converting a languishing bulk-wine producer into a  quality-focused estate winery.  For the past fourteen years, the Weaver’s and their team of experts, led by consulting enologist Vittorio Fiore and consulting agronomist Remigio Bordini,  have created award-winning wines tailored to today’s discerning wine drinker while maintaining the time honored traditions of Chianti Classico.

The Weaver’s acquired neglected vineyards with great potential in an area well suited to making premium Italian wines.   A rigorous program of thinning, retraining, and replanting the vineyards has resulted in lower yields, allowing each vine to produce the best fruit possible.  The changes in the vineyards, combined with upgrades to the equipment and technology in the winery have enabled the team at Le Miccine to dramatically improve the overall quality of their wines.

The Wines…

2008 Le Miccine I’aura (100% vermentino)

Finding vermentino in a mono-varietal wine is somewhat rare.  Most of the time you’ll find it blended with other varieties such as trebbiano.  I’aura is a distinctive wine that stands well on its own.  It has a pale golden color with floral and herbal aromas reminiscent of a crisp sauvignon blanc.  The light-bodied flavors are very refreshing with distinct notes of tropical and stone fruits tied together by an underlying backbone of flinty minerality. Its fresh acidity and clean finish make this a very food friendly wine that will pair well with light summertime fare.

2007 Le Miccine Chianti Classico (85% sangiovese, 10% malvasia nera, 5% merlot)

The ’07 Chianti Classico is a direct descendant of the Weaver’s first vintage in 1997.  Emanating from its gorgeous ruby color are refined aromas of dark cherry with delicate undertones of vanilla and toasty spice.   Juicy flavors of cherries and raspberries along with creamy vanilla nuances are brought into balance by bright acidity and light tannins with distinctive peppery spice.  The medium-length finish reinforces the well balanced combination of fruit an oak.  This wine paired nicely with the rich shrimp and pasta dish that we had for dinner.

2007 Le Miccine “Don Alberto” Chianti Classico Riserva (100% sangiovese)

The “Don Alberto” Riserva is made from the best fruit in Le Miccine’s vineyards.  In 2007 the small amount of fruit provided enough juice for only 155 cases!  Careful selection and meticulous vinification has resulted in an opulent Chianti Classico with a complex range of aromas and flavors.  The deep ruby color is full of rich cherry and blackberry aromas with complex hints of leafy tobacco.  Juicy black cherry flavors and spicy vanilla notes are integrated with well-rounded tannins made evident by the additional barrel aging required for riservas.  The lingering finish is laced with subtle flavors of dried berries and smoky vanilla.  I would give this one a more few years to mature in order to fully enjoy the complexities of a Chianti Classico Riserva.

Note:  This was a barrel sample provide by the winery.  The ’07 “Don Alberto” will be released in May, 2010.

2007 Le Miccine La Principessa (80% merlot, 20% malvasia nera)

The final wine in the line-up was La Principessa, Le Miccine’s “super tuscan.” It’s bright red ruby color is full of fresh cherry and wild berry aromas.  Full bodied flavors hold true to the aromas with the soft textures of creamy vanilla and soft well-rounded tannins.  Pair this with a succulent roast or a rack of lamb and you can’t go wrong!

A Final Note…

Le Miccine’s wines can be found in numerous retail outlets and restaurants in Illinois and the greater Chicago area.  They can also be found in a few select locations in California.  Keep an eye out for these wines in a location near you as they expand into the U.S. Market.  See Le Miccine’s website for a retailer or restaurant in your area.

2006 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Tasting Note

This past Wednesday I had the opportunity to taste Chateau Montelena’s 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($49).  It was included in a flight of wines that I tasted during the WSET class being taught at WineStyles in Brookfield. Sue bought a bottle of the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon last year and is still resting in the cellar waiting for that perfect meal or occasion.  Although the 2006 harvest wasn’t as good as the one in 2005, I think this wine offered a good preview of things to come.

Chateau Montelena is at the northern tip of Napa Valley, in the heart of the recently christened Calistoga AVA, a region known for the quality its red wines.  All of Chateau Montelena’s vineyards for this wine are located close to the banks of the Napa River and share similar soil characteristics to those found in Bordeaux.  It is these characteristics and the hot dry California climate that deliver a complex and concentrated cabernet sauvignon.  Much like the winemakers of Bordeaux, Chateau Montelena has chosen to blend in small amounts of merlot and cabernet franc to soften the otherwise aggressive tannins of the youthful cabernet sauvignon and create additional layers of complexity.

Tasting Notes:

The experience of tasting this wine started off a little rough.  The first bottle we opened was “corked”, a notable flaw in the wine caused by tainted cork.  Rendell Thomas, the owner of WineStyles, was observing the class and offered to supply another bottle so we could fully appreciate what this wine had to offer.  The new bottle was much better, with no sign of cork taint. In the glass the ’06 has an intense ruby color with just a touch of purple round the edges.  Rich aromas of ripe black cherries and currants are laced with layers of spicy pepper and cedar.  The aromas carry through into the palate with lots of ripe black fruit at the forefront.  The acidity is well balanced making the ripe fruit seem juicier. Notes of vanilla and chocolaty spice are accompanied by the grip of young, ripe tannins that continue to build throughout the long finish.

2006 Antinori Pèppoli Chianti Classico

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Tasting Note

The Antinori family has a long history of making fine wines going back as far as 1385. Considered to be pioneers and innovators in the Italian wine industry, their methods and techniques have helped reinvent winemaking in Tuscany and have been credited with starting the “Super-Tuscan” revolution. Over the past six centuries, Antinori has developed and acquired vineyards throughout Tuscany and across the world, including the United States, Hungary, Chile and Malta.

The Pèppoli vineyards are one of the newest acquisitions.  Located in Italy’s Chianti Classico region, Pèppoli is just a few miles from Antinori’s famed Tignanello estate.  Antinori purchased the property in 1985, on the family’s 600th anniversary in the winemaking business, and released the first vintage of Pèppoli Chianti Classico in 1988.  The vineyards are planted in a protected valley on east and northeast facing slopes where the grapes can take full advantage of the morning sun.  The rocky, mineral-laden soils are perfect for growing sangiovese with lively fruit flavors and bright acidity.

Tasting Notes:

Pèppoli ($23) is a blend of 90% sangiovese and 10% merlot and syrah, creating a unique expression of Chianti Classico, with the characteristics of a young fruit-forward wine and the complexity of an oak-aged riserva.  This modern Chianti has a deep ruby color with the juicy aromas of strawberries and raspberries, amplified by vanilla and toffee notes imparted while aging in American and Slovenian oak barrels. The flavors are fruit-forward, but not sweet, with full body and soft, round tannins that play out over a long finish.

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.