21 Apr 2011
Let’s try a little word association game. I say Malbec you say <fill in the blank>. Let’s continue, I say value $10 and under wine, you say <insert thoughts here>. I would venture to guess that the same words might apply to both for a good majority of wine drinkers. Argentinian Malbec has crushed the “value to quality” category over the last few years becoming the fastest growing wine category.
For years Argentinians consumed 90% of the wine they produced (which was a lot at the tune of 60 bottles per capita). This decade has seen a massive shift in the amount of wine exported. Chances are, if you’ve had Malbec, you’ve had wine from Argentina (to the chagrin of the French folks from Cahors).
When I received a box of eight Malbec under the guise of Malbec Madness, I couldn’t help but pair the wine with the exciting college basketball happening in March and early April. I recognized a few of the labels from purchases at a local market and was excited to put the wines to the test with my own Malbec Madness bracket. At first the wines were tasted without looking at the notes. I didn’t want the price points to sway my initial judgment, so I tasted them semi-blind (maybe blurry is a better term – especially after tasting through all 8). There were a few immediate stand outs, but I set aside my notes, re-corked the wines and decided to re-visit them later…over the Elite 8 games.
I decided to pair the wines in an Elite 8 format with the 1-8 seeds based on price point.
07 Trapiche Icons ($55) vs. 09 Falling Star ($6)
The 1/8 seed match up was a disjointed sloppy mess of a game. The Icons came out ready to dominate. With a bottle twice the weight of the Falling Star it seemed as if the wine didn’t even matter. Once the game began the 07 Trapiche showed its power with 18 months of aging in new French Oak and amazing aromas of perfume, espresso, and spice. The wine was thick in the mouth without being overbearing. “Oh my god, this is good,” was the play of the night. The Falling Star committed too many turnovers to compete but showed a hint of flare with a bright juicy candy and banana aroma followed with a soft and elegant mouth feel. In the end the sharp off putting finish and lack of multi-dimensional game plan kept this wine from making a game of it.
07 Trapiche Icons Malbec (Mendoza) 4/5
09 Falling Star Malbec (Mendoza) 3/5
10 Michael Torino ($13) vs. 08 Trapiche Oak Cask ($10)
On paper this was a pretty even match up (4 seed vs. 5 seed). The high elevation M. Torino was is a young team with very little experience playing well against the extended maceration 08 Trapiche which spent 12 months in French and American oak. In the end the intensity of the Trapiche and its bold blackberry and vanilla smooth texture won out over the shallow and tart play of the M. Tornio (lacked any layers of fruit or flavor).
08 Trapiche Oak Cask (Mendoza) 3+/5
10 Michel Torino Malbec (Cafayate Valley) 3/5
08 M. Torino Don David ($16) vs. 10 Astica ($6)
This 2/7 seed match up was close until half time. At that point the experience and varied flavor of the Michel Torino Don David came through. With a super thick black core producing aromas of plum, raisin, and almonds the depth of flavor was superior to the restrained nose under-ripe fruit and semi-sweet profile of the Astica. Both wines are very fruit forward but lacked the depth of game to compete at the next level. It will be an interesting round two match up for the M. Torino.
08 Michel Torino Don David Malbec (Cafayate Valley) 3/5
10 Astica Malbec (Cuyo) 3-/5
08 Trapiche Broquel ($15) vs. 09 Trapiche Varietals ($7.50)
The 3/6 seed match up was a very well played game. Both wines showcased their Mendoza fruit forward heritage. For over 125 years Trapiche has been making fine Argentinean wine. With a little sibling rivalry the Trapiche Broquel shows more age spending 25 days of extended maceration in concrete and 15 months in French and American oak. The youthful Trapiche Varietals comes out strong with elegant fruit and hints of rosemary, vanilla and evergreen tree. The soft fruit feel is accented by pencil lead, medium tannin and a good finish. The Broquel also scores with chalk and pencil lead but in the end shows its strength by displaying strong characteristics of blueberry, vanilla smoke and a long finish. At $15 this is a very good bargain.
08 Trapiche Broquel Malbec (Mendoza) 3+/5
09 Trapiche Varietals Malbec (Mendoza) 3/5
Round two sees the dominant #1 seed Trapiche Icons advance to play the under $10 Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec. The #2 and #3 seed wines advanced with solid play making for a solid second round match up between 08 Michel Torino Don David and the 08 Trapiche Broquel.
The 1/5 match up between the two Trapiche wines was a well played game sure to go down as a classic. Far outmatched the 08 Oak Cask kept pace for most of the game with the 07 Icons. In the end the depth of flavor and aroma of the Icons proved to be too overwhelming. At just $9.99, the Trapiche Oak Cask is a solid wine worthy of many evening sips. Great work keeping pace with a wine 5x its price.
The 2/3 Match up pitted two well matched teams from different areas but of similar price points ($15). Michel Torino Don David (the favorite) started strong but in the end the subtle tannin and long finish of the Trapiche Broquel won out.
This 1/3 match up was extremely mis-matched in price points ($55 to $15) but very well matched in overall flavor, structure and intensity. While the Broquel fits in to the standard price point for a daily drinker, the Trapiche Icons dominated the boards with a consistent flavor, structure, balance, and finish that showed why it is deserving of the price point.
Overall Winner –07 Trapiche Icons Malbec (4/5)
Best Value – 09 Trapiche Varietals (3/5)
Solid – 08 Trapiche Broquel (3+/5)
07 Apr 2011
I’ve never been more compelled by a winery brochure and web site than when I started thumbing through and surfing the pictures of South Coast Winery. The grounds are breathtaking and the whole concept of a relaxing get away weekend with spa, pool, and Tuscan villas had me immediately daydreaming and planning my escape. A previous review included tastings of their GVR white blend, 06 Meritage blend, and Ruby Cuvee sparkler. Each wine showed very well and at attractive price points too. Voted California winery of the year (twice) and 2010 Winery of the Year, South Coast Winery, you may very well be the little slice of Italian heaven that I need right about now.
2010 South Coast Winery Sparkling Pinot Grigio
Want a pop of pineapple in your mouth? Pop open this amazingly crisp sparkler. The head of foam overwhelmed the glass on the pour and I had to do a double take as it looked like strands of hair dancing in the glass as the bubbles swayed from bottom to top. The aroma was bright and full of minerals, yeast, and lemon lime. On the sip, the wine was perfectly Pinot Gris with loads of citrus (specifically pineapple), and hints of wet stone. Chill this way down. When the wine starts to warm up, the tart finish throws it slightly off. The natural 2.2% residual sugar is nicely balanced with the bright acidity. At only $18 this is a perfect pairing with spicy sushi, lemon cake, or citrus chicken. 4/5 (based on value, flavor, and uniqueness).
2007 South Coast Winery IL Temporale
The super Tuscan blend of 58% Sangiovese 19% Cabernet, 13% Petite Verdot, and 10% Merlot is similar to the young wild stallion gracing it’s label. The wine is big and bold but needs to be tamed by a few more years in the bottle. The grapes come from Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyards and spend 14 months in 1 year old French barrels before being bottled. Hints of earth, sandalwood, and cherry softy rise from the glass. The mouth feel is rich with a strong sense of earth, peppered red fruit and tobacco. The wine boasts good overall quality and structure and will show well soon. Pair this with a hearty jalapeño flavored spicy pasta or pork. At $36, I can only give this a 3/5
Looking for a good deal? South Coast Winery is currently offering shipping for a penny and savings of up to 20% on online orders.
24 Mar 2011
Email – “Wanna drink some Bordeaux?”
Response – “Duh, winning!”
Email – “Okay, we’ll send ya some to drink online with other blawgers and the Frenchies.”
Response – “Killer!”
This is a rough synopsis of the interchange that happened between Balzac Communication and Marketing and Nectar Wine Blog (me) a few weeks back. I love Washington wine, but I’m always looking for opportunities to expand the travels of my palate. Being that the event was on a Friday night, I was running the risk of being called away by paying customers but anticipated a 4pm start time to be plenty doable.
Joining me for the tasting is one of the wine slingers at Nectar Tasting Room, Ben Hilzinger (affectionately known as Benny by all the adoring 21-24 year old lovelies that come in every Friday and Saturday). Ben is passionate about wine and has a voracious appetite for wine knowledge and experience. Alongside my tasting notes are some of Benny’s poetic ramblings.
A brief Bordeaux lesson;
- Southwest corner of France
- Wine history dating back 2000 years (thanks Caesar)
- 700 million bottles of wine produced
- Strictly controlled and regulated
Just like in America, wines in Bordeaux range in quality and price. Tonight’s tasting involved five wines from the Bordeaux Superieur AOC. Wines from this appellation come from mostly older vines and most be aged a minimum of 9 months. All five wines tasted range in price from $13-$16 (a bargain for most any region).
“If you want to earn the Bordeaux Supérieur appellation “stamp of approval,” you have to comply with particularly strict winemaking conditions that give an optimum expression of the terroir.”
The NectarView – A Trip to Planet Bordeaux
I had no idea that Bordeaux was its own planet, but I was really excited for the journey. Uncertain if we traveled by space ship or just virtually through enotravel, I figured I better strap in for the journey. My previous experiences in this price range of French wine left me thinking of trips to my grandma’s house and the smell in the 100 year old basement mixed with a little dirt and mushroom.
Wine #1 Chateau La Gatte La Butte 2006
This 100% Merlot really took me by surprise with its strength. A strong sense of place comes through in both the nose and the palate. The wine seemed a little uptight. @PalatePress said it best with “This will be better tomorrow. Too tight. The wine needs a Manhattan, a massage, and a good night’s sleep. Needs to relax.” The wine is reminiscent of dust covered cherries with a hint of pencil lead. Score this one 3/5.
Wine Slinger Ben – Wed dog nose, well structured, opens up in the back end…”I could sip this.”
Wow, he sure waxes poetic on that one…
Wine #2 Chateau de Lugagnac 2008
A 50/50 split of Cabernet and Merlot from 40+ year old vines, the vineyards sit on soils of iron bearing clay and chalk. While at first I didn’t think the Lugagnac was as well structured as the first wine (thanks @suburbanwino for calling me out), the wine opened up as it sat in the glass while I tended to a patron. Once back to the wine there was an overwhelming amount of plum on the nose. The wine had a nice fruity front but a very hollow mid-plate. The finish was a little tart. Not a favorite of mine 3-/5
64% Merlot and 36% Cabernet. The Quancard was not a favorite among several of the tasters. For me I got a little busy during the tasting on this one and couldn’t give it my full attention. My buddy @winefoot says, ” 2008 Chateau Terrefort-Quancard – rather tart for me- rhubarb, cherries, white pepper, bubble-gum and chalk dust.” From @skovi “The 2008 Terrefort-Quancard is definitely earthy; I get forest floor, tobacco, dry fruit, but not a long finish.” No score.
Wine Slinger Ben – Subtle nose…not too fruity, lingering finish, approachable earthy finish…wee bit spicy.
Wine #4 Chateau de Parenchere Cuvee Raphael 2007
A blend of 60/40 Cab/Merlot, the Parenchere had a full nose of mint, coffee, dry fruit and tobacco. Great structure on the palate with a great deal of layers. The wine is complex and needs to lay down on the couch for an hour session while I uncover the layers. At this price point, this is by far the best wine of the night. Tweet from @cellarmistress “I still can’t get over the muddy, sexy barnyard nose on this thing! Makes me want to mudwrestle! (only kidding!)” 3+/5 (big score for the little price.
Wine Slinger Ben – Wholly shit dude, this is good. Wow!
…again, the boy has a way with words that will make your knees buckle.
Wine #5 Chateau Penin Tradition 2008
While there was a mix up in the tasting (some had 08, some had 09), I had to just drink what I had…bummer. 90% Merlot, 5% Cab and 5% Cab Franc; Ben and I disagreed slightly on the wine. For me there wasn’t a ton of depth and character. It smelled nice and nice a nice flavor but the complexities were missing. Seemed reminiscent of a new world wine with berry fruit and smooth vanilla flavors. 3/5
Wine Slinger Ben – Loving this wine, buttery morning toast, great dimensions and balance, warm & inviting, great wine to pair with food and/or stand alone.
To summarize, the overall impression of Planet Bordeaux tasting was excellent. The value to price ratio left me feeling more confident of my next French wine purchase. Now, if only we could get those Frenchies to Americanize the labels so they’re not so intimidating to the average consumer.
Other Post Recaps from Friends
The Wellesley Wine Press http://www.wellesleywinepress.com/2011/03/bordeaux-tasting-reveals-affordable.html
Three things draw me to Cana’s Feast Winery; 1) the biblical tie to their name with Jesus’ first miracle as he turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, 2) An Oregon winery that uses lots and lots of Washington fruit, 3) Tamara Belgard – a friend I met on Twitter who used social media to land a marketing job at the winery!
Cana’s Feast Winery is located about an hour south and west of Portland, OR sand south of the Yamhill wine area. Located in a Tuscan style villa in Carlton, OR, Cana’s Feast focuses on several Italian varietals (Nebbiolo, Primitivo, Barbera), and Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Counoise, and Pinot Noir. With price points under $30 (except the Pinot Noir), Cana’s Feast offers a good selection of well priced quality wines.
This 100% Barbera is grown in Washington from Coyote Canyon and Ciel du Cheval vineyards and is aged in a combination of new and neutral French oak. The aroma was bull of under-ripe (green) berries with reminders of Christmas tree fragrance. In the mouth the wine is slightly disjointed with strong acidity and tart raspberry. Admittedly, I am not a huge Barbera fan and know that this wine would be rockin’ with a big plate of spaghetti. For sippin’, I would pass on this wine but would definitly give it a go with food. At $22, I can give this a 3/5.
Hands down, the best 100% Counoise I’ve ever had! Okay, honestly this was the first 100% Counoise I’ve ever had. I was excited to try this Chateauneuf –du- Pape region blending grape. The wine hails from Washington’s Coyote Canyon vineyards and was aged in once used and neutral French oak. With a high alcohol of 14.9%ABV the wine has a vibrant aroma of cherry fruit and a subtle hint of perfume. The medium acidity is balanced out by the semi-sweet cherry flavors and medium fine tannin. With only 116 cases made, this wine alone is worth a trip to Cana’s Feast. With a retail price of $25, I want this wine again! 4/5
With a strong pedigree of 75% Ciel du Cheval fruit and 25% Coyote Canyon fruit, the 100% varietal Cab Franc started strong with good aroma of blueberry and bell pepper. In the mouth the wine is above average but doesn’t provide the wow-factor that I equate with other Cab Franc’s in my memory bank. At $29, this is a good wine that showcases the quality of Ciel du Cheval fruit. The nearly 15%ABV alcohol is balanced by the fruit and acidity without being overwhelming. A good wine that doesn’t quite live up to its pedigree 3+/5
2007 Cana’s Feast Primitivo
With a heritage from Croatia and closely tied to Zinfandel, Primitivo can be a big, jammy Italian wine. When tasting Primitivo, I make immediate mental comparisons to some of my favorite Zinfandels that hail from California. Only a few Washington vineyards produce Primitivo. 100% of the fruit comes from Coyote Canyon. The BIG 15.5%ABV is hidden underneath the thick berry and spice. The fruit flavors are strong on the front palate with an odd off acidity on the back palate. The wine has more layers than a typical $10 California Zin, but lacks the structure to compete with the $25 Seghesio Zins. A solid offering and worthy of a taste test 3+/5
Smith-Madrone winery has been making estate grown and bottled wine for 40 years! Founded in 1971 by brothers Stu and Charles Smith, Smith-Madrone makes about 4000 cases per year farmed from their 200 acre ranch in St Helena California. A visit to the winery will always be accompanied by a tour from one of the Smith brothers.
In 2010, Stu Smith became somewhat of a wine world personality with the launching of his www.biodynamicsisahoax.com web site. From the opening paragraph of the web site:
“I challenge any Biodynamic farmer or supporter to defend the writings of Rudolf Steiner. I submit that if you believe in science you cannot believe in Biodynamics, and the corollary is just as true, if you believe in Biodynamics you cannot believe in science. As you can tell by the title I believe that Biodynamics is a hoax and deserves the same level of respect the scientific community has for witchcraft, voodoo and astrology.”
I’m a fan of sustainable and responsible growing and distribution of wine and do not claim to be an expert on the subject but the practices of bull horns and cow manure don’t seem to have any bearing on quality grapes. So, this post isn’t about biodynamics…It’s about two Smith-Madrone wines. If you want to know more about biodynamics (and Stu’s view) click the video from Cork’d.
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Riesling. The 2009 growing season resulted in the lowest Riesling yield in Smith-Madrone history. With only 302 cases produced the bone dry Riesling comes in at 12.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Very light in the glass, almost colorless with just hints of golden straw
- The Sniff: Amazingly vibrant nose that explodes with aromas of apple, pear and a nice minerality. This wine makes my mouth water with ever sniff.
- The Sip: Quality Riesling through and through. A wonderful kiss of sweet Asian pear graces the front of the tongue accompanied by a balanced tart citrus on the mid palate. Wonderful flavor profile with outstanding acidity and a balanced finish.
- The Score: At $27, this is more than I would spend without having had some experience or strong recommendation for this wine. So, here it is…if you’re a Riesling lover, you will like this wine. 4/5
- The Stuff: 100% big bold and bombastic Napa Valley Chardonnay. Aged for 11 months in 70% new French oak. 14.4% ABV, 790 cases produced
- The Swirl: Very light in the glass, lacks the traditional yellow gold color one comes to expect from Chardonnay.
- The Sniff: Immediately get a blast of cedar, smoke and earth. The nose has to really dig deep to catch a whiff of the granny smith apple. A nice minerality starts to present itself upon a second visit.
- The Sip: I’m a fan of slightly oaked Chardonnay and this one delivers on that front. The fruit seems to be a little more hidden than I would have initially liked. After the video review I enjoyed this wine with an Indian Curry based dish and it really came alive. The mouth feel was thick without being overly exaggerated. The presentation of the mineral acidity on the finish was a nice touch.
- The Score: At $30, I enjoyed the wine, but I preferred the 2007 vintage. Give this one a try in the tasting room if you think you’ll be on the fence at that price. 3/5
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