Posts Tagged ‘Wine Tastings’

Sampling California’s Sauvignon Blanc

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004

Sauvignon Blanc is a light, crisp white wine that is perfect for those sultry summer days. The 2002 Sancerre from France is a perfect example of a well-made Sauvignon Blanc, but California also puts forth a fine effort using this grape. Although I have probably tested over a hundred Sauvignon Blancs over the years, I thought I would utilize a different methodology for this tasting. I read recent tasting reviews from The Wine Spectator and The New York Times, then visited five reputable retail stores in New York asking them for their best selections under $25. The result was 9 wines ranging from $11 to $23. My biggest surprise from the tasting was that a number of the wines were aged in too much oak, which I feel makes them too heavy. The three wines below were the consensus favorites, each displaying a delicious crispness:

Honig 2002 ($13)
A pale yellow wine displaying clean, crisp citrus aromas. The high acidity was well balanced with bright fruit showing hints of grapefruit and lemon. This was the hands-down winner, the perfect
complement to a sunny day.
Frogs Leap 2002 ($21)
Also pale yellow in color, this was a bright, lively, refreshing wine with an essence of mineral and slate on the nose. The wine displayed layers of citrus, and had a long pleasant finish.
Ironstone 2002 ($11)
A light straw color with a vibrant scent of lemons. The wine is well balanced with hints of melon and honey. Not as crisp as the first two wines, but very refreshing.

Wine Tasting – Zinfandel

Wednesday, May 19th, 2004

Zinfandel is a great grape for spring and summer because it pairs so well with everything you are grilling on the barbeque. Zins are known as an American wine, and the grape is typically grown in very hot climates, resulting in bold, spicy wines with a high alcohol content. These wines typically have plenty of flavors, most notably: black cherry, raspberry, pepper, clove, and chocolate. But all Zins are not created equal; some are light and fruity, while the best ones have considerable backbone and structure. I recently went to a tasting with wines by 53 different Zinfandel producers, and although my favorite producer, Turley, was not there, there were some excellent wines. My favorites wines were…

Ridge has set the standard year in and year out, and this year was no exception. Lytton Springs 2002 ($30) was the best wine at the tasting, it is a blend of 75% zinfandel, 20% petit syrah, and 5% carignane. It is a full bodied wine with character, spice and great balance. Although you can drink it this summer, Paul Draper the winemaker prefers to age it about ten years. Ponzo 2002 ($25) was a new label offered by Ridge using grapes from the Russian River Valley. This wine is 96% zinfandel and was also full bodied with many layers of fruit and spice. It was smooth with a long finish.

Ravenswood was another top performer that consistently makes bold zins. Teldeschi 2001 ($30) is a single vineyard wine from Dry Creek that is mostly zinfandel with a little petit syrah and carignane blended in. This wine is a gorilla. Although it has many layers of fruits and spices, the tannins are very prevalent. This wine will be delicious, but I would age it at least 5 years. Monte Rosso 2001($30) is another Ravenswood wine, this one from Sonoma, and it’s composed of 100% zinfandel. It is also a very big wine, but more approachable than the Teldeschi. It’s delicious with character and style.

Montevina Winery was a newer zinfandel producer that impressed me. Their Terra d’Oro Schoolhouse Road 2000 ($20) was a unique blend of 80% zinfandel, 13% petit syrah, and 7% barbera. The barbera heightened the forward fruit, but this fruit was balanced with good acidity and body providing a lush, well made wine. The Terra d’Oro, Deaver 2001 ($20) was made with 100% zinfandel grapes from 118 year old vines. It was a big, bold wine that will age for many years.

The two best offerings under $20 were Peachy Canyon Westside and Rancho Zabaco Sonoma Heritage. These wines were more medium bodied compared with the wines above, but they had good flavor, were not too fruity, and provided good value.

Many times when people talk about zinfandels they refer to the “R’s”, most notably Ridge, Ravenswood, Renwood, and Rosenblum. Redwood has been a good producer in the past, but their 2001 vintage lacked body and character. The wines from Rosenblum were from the 2001 & 2002 vintage, and they were all too plumy.

Zinfandel is a fun grape. The combination of bold fruit and spices make it a great match for a grilled steak. So stoke up the barbeque and crack open a zin.


Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

Cold winter weather is the perfect season to drink big, bold red wines. Bandol is a region in southern France that makes an unappreciated red wine made from the Mourvedre grape. Bandol is located near the Mediterranean between the towns of Marseille and Toulon. Although these red wines have been produced here for over 100 years, they are far less known than the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The wines from Bandol are not bashful; they are big meaty wines that can age for years. Bandols do not exhibit the finesse of a great Bordeaux or Burgundy in their youth; but they have the backbone and flavor to age beautifully. I might compare these wines to a huge Rhone wine with a touch of gaminess thrown in. Of all the Bandols we tasted, these were the favorites:

Domaine Tempier 2000 – ($36)
The favorite. This a rich, bold, deep red wine that is as smooth as velvet. Tons of fruit fill the palate, and it is perfectly balanced with spices, vanilla and a rustic earthiness. This wine could age for years, but with some decanting it would be delicious this weekend.
Chateau Pradeaux 1998 – ($25)
This was the oldest Bandol tasted, and it still had a lot of tannin. This wine is a blockbuster, very bold with layers of dark fruit, cinnamon and leather. Pradeaux is a favorite of Robert Parker, and would certainly be a candidate for the wine cellar.
Domaine Gros Nore 2000 – ($17)
This wine is lighter than the first two, but still exhibits that spiciness indicative of the mourvedre grape. Gros Nore is a powerful wine with a lot of forward fruit, pepper and cinnamon. An extremely dry wine that would match perfectly with a grilled steak.

WINE TASTING – Prosecco. A Taste of the Bubbly…

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003

This the season to drink some bubbly. Champagne continues to set the standard for sparkling wines, but a fun alternative is Prosecco. If you ever had a Bellini in Harry’s bar, or sipped a sparking wine overlooking Lake Como, then you’ve had Prosecco. It is the sparkling wine made in the Veneto, a region in northeastern Italy. As opposed to Champagne that can improve as it ages, Prosecco is meant to be served young. It is a fun, lively, inexpensive sparking wine which is delicious. Of all the Proseccos we tasted, these were the favorites:

Carpene Malvolti ($14)
The hands down winner. The wine was straw colored, fresh and lively. It was packed with fruit and exhibited floral scents. A great mouth-feel, and a nice long finish. Delicious.
Aneri ($15)
A very sophisticated wine, with a complexity of flavors. It was dry and well integrated.
Ombra ($12)
A fresh, fun wine that had an enormous amount of ripe fruit flavor. Good effervescence and balance.


Sunday, September 14th, 2003

Apulia, located on the southeastern tip of Italy (the heel of the boot) is a major wine region producing over 1 billion liters per year. One of the major grapes from this region is Primitivo, with the vineyards concentrated around the town of Manduria. It is thought that Primitivo is a distant relative of the California Zinfindel grape. Both are similar in that they are typically fruity, simplistic wines. Primitivo grapes bake on the vine in the hot sun of southern Italy. This concentrates the fruit into a rather high alcohol wine that is not always tame. The wine however is not complex, and displays an aroma of cherries, blackberries and plums which should be enjoyed young. It is perfect for the summer BBQ, pairing well with hamburgers or other grilled meats. Of the Primitivos tasted, these were the favorites:

Pichierri Terrarossa 2001 ($21)
The hands down winner. A medium bodied, robust wine that exhibited a high concentration of cherries and blackberries. The perfect balance mellows the wine on the palate with a nice long finish.
Cantine dei Trulli 2000 ($16)
A rust colored wine typical of long aging. The wine was not typical, but showed characteristics of a wine that was harvested very late. It displayed layers of prunes and molasses and layers of spice that gave a unique level of complexity.
Rosa del Golfo Salento 2000 ($15)
A rich wine with style. The cherry and plum flavors have softened to produced a balanced wine with
a long smooth finish.