Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 25 Wines of 2012, A Special Report by Wine Correspondent's Ralph Del Rio

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

It is important to be able to find a wine if you are going to be singing its praises; otherwise it becomes pretty difficult to make your case. Now let’s let all those cult and collectible wines not count for the purposes of this list. I’ve said it before, How good can a wine be if not many people can taste it or afford it and of course that's a double edge sword. There are many wines that the only way you will be able to taste is to go to your neighborhood wine tastings or to go to wine conventions and things like that. You have to be on the lookout.  Let’s face it, some wines you just have to bite the bullet and pay for the pleasure and there are a few on this list of course.

In my opinion accessibility is significant and the ability to be able to put the pen to paper(or get it on your mobile device)some good notes and if you can get the feedback from others who are tasting with you; makes it possible to communicate your perception on judging the wine.

There are different approached to scoring some rely on telling you about the terroir and the soil and what the year was like for the wine, what the winemaker did to make the wine shine and also comparing it to previous years. Other reviewers go straight for the aromas and flavors.

I like to consider the wines feel and overall makeup including the nose, aromas, tastes and finish. Whether the wines are actually available for purchase. I like to hit what I like to call the 'mezzo territory' that often happens when you taste, looking at the breadth versus the smallest nuance, so the regular person can say 'Yeah, I understand where your coming from'. As with any list there's always good ones that get left off, nonetheless...without any further interruption, here are my top 25 wines for 2012.

2009 La Fleur de Board Lalande de Pomerol  France

2009 Monsanto Chianti Classic Riserva Italy

2010 Mollydooker  Carnival of Love Shiraz  Australia

2010 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley Clark and Telephone Vineyard California

2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac France

2010 Turley Zinfandel Paso Robles Pesenti Vineyard California

2010 Bodega Norton Malbec Mendoza Reserva Argentina

2010 Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling (Mosel)

2009 Chateau La Vielle Cure, Fronsac France

2010 M. Chapoutier Cotes du Roussillon Les Vignes de Bila Haut France

2009 Cayuse Syrah Walla Walla Valley Cailoux Vineyard Washington

2009 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Reserve California

2010 Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay Columbia Valley Indian Wells

2010 Chateau De St. Cosme Gigondes France

2009 Chateau Haut Bergey Pessac-Leogneon Bordeaux

2008 Joseph Phelps  Insignia Napa Valley California

2008 Le Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Valley Perigree Seven Hills Vineyard Washington

2009 Chateau Haut Bages Liberall Pauillac France

2009 Andrew Will Horse Heaven Hills Champoux Vineyard Washington

2010 D' Arenberg Mclaren Vale Footbolt Shiraz Australia

2008 Echeverria Reserva Syrah Maipo Valley

2009 Cadence Red Mountain Coda

2009 Dabilano Nebbiolo d’ Alba Marghe Italy

2009 Cuvaison Pinot Noir Napa Valley California

2009 Chateau Corton Grancy, Louis Latour Aloxe Corton France

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review - The World Cheese Book 2009 –Editor in Chief Juliet Harbutt

The World Cheese Book 2009 –Editor in Chief Juliet Harbutt

I am a fan of DK Books when the material is good. Nicely laid out. Great photos. It’s all about the way cheese looks like, tastes like, smells like and where it’s from. Which is why this book is cool! It mike make you cheer if you love cheese and what to know more. This book help you pit one cheese against another and it’s a great way to learn. It gives you a clear thoughtful way to look at the world of cheese.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Barolo and Barbaresco… Two great Italian wines from two great wine producing zones

With such a long rich history Italian wines continue evolving and gaining momentum. Over the past decade we’ve seen great quality especially in Piedmont which is in Northern Italy is at the foot of the Alps. It’s still very Mediterranean though… It is the home of a long tradition of fine wine.  Barolo and Barbaresco are Piedmont’s  red wine Grand Cru’s.  Nebbiolo is the grape and essentially along with Sangiovese of Chianti it is Italy’s most noble grape variety.
In the 19th century after adopting French wine making techniques, a modern style of wine making was discovered that became to be known as the world-celebrated “king of wines, the wine of kings”; a delicious, big brick red  dry style with high acidity that promises many years of cellar aging. These days it seems just about every vintage of Barolo and Barbaresco offer excitement.
The interconnection of Piedmont’s renowned wines is the Langhe region. It is the home of both the Barolo and Barbaresco and a place of dramatic interplay of shadows and sun; foggy yet scenic. It’s unique. The temperatures in the day and night often swing mightily. Sometimes the sky is black and sometimes it’s white. Usually you have pockets rain throughout the summer into the fall. The land is myriad of rich clays and easy draining sand all which helps make commanding wines yet with amusing sophistication.

Today’ these Piedmont reds are conveyed in overindulgences. Some suggest a more modern style which minimizes tannins and maximizes the youthful fruit. It is super extracted fruit style with toasty oak.
The others are more traditional… offering powerful structured savory tannins and a more earthy expressive nose.  It’s the whiffs of tar, leather, perfumes of violets and roses. The grip of the velvet tannins that vibrate on the palate, the racy minerality of the wine from this region along with rushing flavors of cherries, vanilla, figs and black licorice. The wine can be very profound and have the propensity for cellaring( 5, 10 years or more!).
What is interesting is that Piedmont, Italy happens to lie at the same latitude of Burgundy, France and they have a similar summer climate and Piedmont is really the only place that Barolo and Barbaresco can grow with wide-ranging success.
These distinctive wines; both made from the Nebbiolo grape in general terms can be thought of this way. The Barolo is the more substantial, tannic and opulent of the two, while Barbaresco is considered more elegant and approachable.

By the way, the foods of the Piedmont that are habitually served with mature Barolo and Barbaresco include many plates made with white truffles or white truffle oil, Porcini mushrooms; cheeses like Bra Dura, Fontina, Ribiole, Toma, and truffle infused cheeses. Also game (especially game birds); and beef braised in red wine.
…Two great wines from two great wine producing zones.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review - Matt Kramer’s Making Sense of Italian Wine 2006 – Matt Kramer

Matt Kramer’s Making Sense of Italian Wine 2006 – Matt Kramer

This book is one of my favorites. When Matt tells you think about Italy in terms of States and then he breaks it all down by the varietals and what States you can find the varietals; including what varietals make up certain wines and the key wine makers(new style vs old school too)and producer’s. It’s just a great perspective to look and learn Italian Wine.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Special Report - A group of tasty great red wines to hunt for and drink over the next 5 to 6 years. Stock up!

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

There is a certain passion associated with a bottle of wine. A good bottle of wine is the end result of years and years of experimentation and practice.  So, it makes for a good time to celebrate especially if you can find a great deal.
Most of these global wines listed below are great values; they are all under $20 but most importantly drink up to two or three sometimes four times the price. How can that be !?!

These are several of my favorites right now and they are worth the hunt.

Bodegas Mas Alta Black Slate La Vilella Alta 2010 Priorat, Spain
Notes of pencil, blueberry, raspberries, crushed rocks and cut flowers on the nose of this inky/darkly-colored wine. It is intense, it is big and complex  yet supple with nice tannins and a long finish.  

Falesco Merlot IGT Umbria 2010 Merlot  Italy

Fragrant, flowers  and dramatically dark fruit. The wine retains a vivacity. It is lean and lively through to the finish; great juiciness.

Badenhorst  Secateurs  Red Blend  2010 South Africa
Surrounded by black tea, honeyed spice and vanilla bean inflections, the mouthfeel is decisively structured with medium tannins and an inner acidity, finishing  on a soft, citrusy and roasty note.

Tikal Natural Organic Malbec 2010  Argentina
Ripe and firm, with harmonious acidity framing the black fruits, black cherry and briny flavors which trap a subtle but pushing sweetness. With Sandalwood, violets, tobacco notes, it ends with chewy, dusty tannins and good length.

Jim Barry Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2009  Coonawarra, Australia
Concentrated cassis and blackberries on the nose with hints of pencil shavings, cloves and bay leaf. Medium to full bodied, it has a good level of tannins, lively acidity, wild spices with hints of mint. Very mouth filling, with very pure berry flavors, finishing long.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sicily used to be known for bulk wine, not anymore...

Sicily used to be known as the Island where bulk wine, blending wine ruled the day. It was basically alot of Catarratto and Trebbiano grapes; and mostly white varieties. The place where Marsala was king ...It still is super famous...

With such great land, microclimates, good people and the right approach over the past 20 years; old vines and volume producing vineyards have been ripped out and replaced with more red and international varietals.
Wine trustworthiness has been a long time coming for Sicily. Today Sicily has 22 DOC (denominazione di origine controllata) regions and one DOCG (denominazione di origine e garantita). Some of these accentuate a single grape variety; while others allow blending. All these areas are busy reveling the best grapes of their territory. There are a lot of IGT’s making wine as well which can represent good values.

Today Nero d’ Avola is the island’s second most planted variety after Catarratto.   There are ten native varieties(they account for  about 80% of all the vines), such as Frappato, Inzolia and Perricone and the like; plus non indigenous varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and others.

Sicily is about 6% the size of California. To put some things into perspective; Sicily has nearly 350,000 acres of vines according to official statistics and produces roughly 200,000 gallons of wine. It’s in 3rd place in the amount of vines to wines to California and then Australia….and not by much. But essentially, Sicily is overflowing in wine.

A lot of the changes have come with successful struggles against organized crime and corruption. Yet Sicilian’s know they have a great wine future. Just like Tuscany, where outsiders had to come in and start making awesome wine, it’s happening in Sicily and changes and inspired improvements have happened and it is specifically because of this that Sicilian’s extremely and enormously renewed their interests in the local varieties.

It’s important to note that Sicily was one of the most ancient Greek conquests, eighth century BC and wine was being made way back then and they have the claim in Italy for being the most ancient and in wine that carries some weight.

Given all this relatively new competitive outlook, it sure comes with its share of complications. But for the wine enthusiast it is great news although it brings confusion as to what’s good, really good and not so good.

Here are some noteworthy producers: Palari, Carlo Hauner, Planeta, Tasca D’ Amerita/Regaleali, Feudi Principi di Butera, Di Bartoli(for Marsala), Benanti and Feudo Montoni.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's Time to be a Cheese Aficionado!

A lot of us don't even think twice about going to the local gourmet shop on a Friday evening for complimentary wine tastings or even asking someone for help at the local wine store. It’s time to start thinking the same way about cheese. Time to be a Cheese Aficionado!

Now cheese can get very pricey. So when you are looking at cheeses that can cost upwards of $15 -$20 a pound, you want to make sure that you're going to like what you're buying. The only way to know for sure is to taste. It is so worth the journey.

With the massive selection of specialty cheeses available these days; don’t limit yourself to the basic 4 or 5 cheeses (Monterrey Jack, Sharp Cheddar, Swiss etc...) you see prepackaged on the shelves.

Trying a new cheese whenever you visit the cheese shop can help you grow and coach your enjoyment to uncover a delight for cheeses you would certainly miss….and we’re talking intense delight!

In the same way, if you think you are limited to hard cheeses, take a walk on the wild side and try a younger softer cheese. Even if you think you are not a fan of blue cheese? There are a lot of different nuances and flavors. Maybe you'll find one you like. Not sure about very pungent cheese? Go ahead and ask for a sample.

Believe me, there are so many different types of cheeses from all over the world that you really need to find a cheese expert to help teach you, get an idea what you might like, chart your course; and steer you in the right direction.

I get my Cheeses from a place called Vintage Wine Cellars and Massaro's in Tampa FL...but Fresh Market, Whole Foods and also Trader Joe's has some great choices.

Listen, any worthy cheese monger (the guy or gal with that hat and the apron) will be happy to let you sample the stuff and talk to you. Do not be afraid. Just say “Can I try that?” …and don’t forget to pick up a bottle of wine too. Now that’s a whole other story.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Today's Choice Wine - 2009 Numanthia-Termes

The 2009 Numanthia-Termes has been on my radar for some time now I really liked the 2000 and the 2004. This bodega makes some hedonistic red wines. From Spain's Toro is old-vine Tinto de Toro (Tempranillo) It’s powerful and supple at the same time. Oak spices, blackberries, brown spices and cherry notes …It has a silky texture with lush fruits It’s concentrated, complex and has a great finish. I think its great year in and out it seems. Modern yet classic. Pair it up with smoked meats, Smoked Ribs, A busy Paella with Chorizo.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Is the barrel about flavor? Some thoughts on the role that oak plays in wine

The integrating of of oak into wines has always been part of wine making and in the past 30-40 years it’s been the French oak and the American oak that is most used. The vine and the oak tree have been used together for centuries. The relationship is multifaceted and involved.

It can be used to intensify flavors. It can be very impressive. It can add depth and structure. But the overuse can make it excessive and disproportionate. Racking and oak age are important to consider; so is maturation and the toast levels using steam or fire and of course the grapes themselves that each acts differently in the barrel and reading the terroir’s effect.

Is the barrel about flavor? Many serious winemakers say no. it’s about a balance between the fruit range, oxygen and durability of the wine. But you can imagine how it all comes into play.

American oak is white oak or Quercus alba. It has a noted vanilla or coconut nuance which can provide cutting tannins. It is also capable of unleashing sweet, gentle broad character.

French oak is from either the pedunculate oak, robur or sessile oak. It is understated, nuttier and smokier with softer tannins. Some say French oak gives a more traditional or classic feel which allow the terroir to come out more strongly.

Some of  high-end oaks are Taransaud, Darnajou and Dominique Laurent. Tarnasaud really takes a while for the elegant complexity to kick in and then Wow! Darnajou tends infuses itself in the wine throughout which is a characteritic that is enjoyable and Dominique Laurent and his nicknamed "magic casks" that are very exclusive.

Either way…a few thoughts on oak barrels and how it’s the partnership that counts. It’s a relationship of wine aesthetics that help make up the magic of wines pleasure.

A quick example, a friend brought over one of these high altitude Malbec's...3400 feet in elevation. It's one the latest crazes. Why? Becuause the water has to struggle to get up to the grapes; and the coolness of the climate makes for slower riping, which is interesting for this grape.

Now the kicker...It has 50% New French Oak and 50% New American Oak.

It makes you think about the fuit hiding behind the powerful oak and its aging potential and the tannins that it delivers. Toasty vanilla and caramel, big and bordeaux-like in its grip. Overall it was a really great wine.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review - Educating Peter 2008– Lettie Teague

Educating Peter 2008– Lettie Teague
Movie critic Peter Travers know virtually nothing about wine. This fun book entreatingly follows him around while he discovers the joy of wine. As the book evolves so does Peter.


Friday, March 2, 2012

7 Types of Cheeses, the basics...

These are basically 7 types of cheeses. Here's a way to think about them when you pick them out.

The 7 Types of Cheeses

Fresh Cheese (FC)- No rind and moist. They are ready to eat quickly. Milky, refreshing and acidic, lemony and nutty undertones.

Aged fresh Cheese (AFC)- Fresh yet aged with nice molds, yeasts and controlled to grow rind. Found in rounds, logs, pyramid shapes. They are aromatic, creamy sometimes wrinkly with ash, spices or wrapped in leaves.

Soft White Cheese (SWC)- White crust a little runny, wild and earthy mushroom buttercup flavors rich texture. Can be peppery and a little grainy.

Semi Soft Cheese (SSC)- Two types: Dry Rind and Washed Rind. Dry ripens slowly and Washed rinds soften quicker and gets supple with age. Both can range from nutty to floral and barnyard to meaty taste and aromas.

Hard Cheese (HC) - Have a rough or polished rind and gets interesting flavors. Usually come in wheels, can be either cows, goat or sheep milk, Gets complex and crunchy as they mature which can be grainy, dry and oily at the same time.

Blue Cheese (BC) – Customarily blue molds with a sticky to crusty rind. Ranges from dense, herbaceous and buttery to sweet caramel or sharp, salty and spicy. Blue cheeses can be crumbly and damp with a metallic tang. Often display veins of blue and commanding aromas.

Flavor Added Cheeses (FAC)- Varied kinds where ingredients are meshed, naturally smoked, or rind is flavored. Majority is broken up and reformed with added ingredients, sweet dried fruits, seasonings, nuts, seeds, herbs, creative blendings. They are deli counter standouts.

Thinking of them like this is pretty helpful to me. So I thought I'd pass it on...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Affordable Red Burgundy...Stick to the top producers

Finding good inexpensive Pinot Noir is not an easy thing to do. Often you go to the wine shop or super market looking for these wines and you see them and say to yourself..."Are they any good"?

It's become better known that Pinot Noir is the hardest grape to grow because it's very delicate and really tricky to master for many wine makers. So how do you know what is good if you are not prepared to take a chance on a Pinot Noir and spend $30 - $70 a bottle, yet alone $100...or even picking one out at a restaurant...Don't worry. If you stick to the top producers, you can get the combination of quality and value. Is it going to be distinctive? You will have the basics; good fruit, good oak and its the perfect way to saturate the palate with pinot noir and who good years there's a sleeper wine that blows the doors off the expensive stuff.

Put it this way. If you like Pinot Noir, you are in better shape than the folks that love Bordeaux wines. It's hard enough to navigate around the Burgundy region.

Bourgogne rouge which is what it's often called on the bottle offers great value.

People will argue..."What about the location?!?" "What about the terroir?!?" Listen matters but believe me in the burgundy region where terroir is gospel. It doesn't really matter that much, because the top producers do some great stuff. Alot of it is just declassified juice from the top wines, which is just fine and made to drink now and not lay down...and when it comes to growers versus negociants, they all for the most part have made big strides to put out good Pinot Noir. These gus know what they are doing. Buy them up too because they dissapear in a blink of an eye.

Here are some to look for...Maison Champy, Maison Louis Jadot, Domain Denis Pere et Fils, Domaine Faiveley and Domaine Drouhin.

French White Bugundy...what to look for!

French Burgundy is often looked as at the benchmark for excellent chardonnay and for good reason. As well as having a good natural alcohol level. They usually have the right balance for acidity, freshness, excellent aromatics and are built for drinking now and a little bit of aging as well. Eventhough year in and year out California chardonnay gives it a run for its money and even eclipsing. It is the the cool regions of Burgundy that give the chardonnay its style to look for.

Here are the main regions and the styles that make it so classic so seek them out:

Chablis: has high acidity. Look for the top producers here if you can but one thing is for sure is that the terroir is what screams out. They are fresh and have high acidity. Limestone, chalk and steel are prevalent.

Mersault: This chardonnay is generally the most varied, a kind of interctive feel to it. It can be very crisp and clean to ripe and heavy. In Charmes they are very energetic and bouncy; while Perrieres is straightforward, intense, alive with minerality.

Puligny-Montrachet: This chardonnay is usuall the same year in and year out. I mean this in a very positive way. Just like an old friend. It's also vibrant and clean, the terroir gives this. Near the Mersault side there is that minerality as well. Pucelles is very pretty and silky with a floral nose that sometimes gives off a little botrytus.

Chassagne-Montrachet: These chardonnays are up on a higher in the slopes which make the vines struggle and push for excellence. There no other place on earth like it. In Chaumees the wines are floral, supple and spicy, the minerality is palpable. En Caillerates has this wet stone with fruitiness effect(not sweet!!!) that is ice cool and with enveloping white flowers...really!

St, Aubin: The chardonnay here is workman-like. delicious, zippy and juicy. Good stuff can be found here abound and at good prices.

Rully: These wines are generally ripe and fresh and straight forward.

Macconnais: These wines are again fresh and croud pleasing. The are well rounded with a good bit of acidity that go along way to match up with a good plate of seafood and chicken as most of these great chardonnays from Burgundy.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review - The Ultimate Wine Companion 2010 – Edited By Kevin Zraly

The Ultimate Wine Companion 2010 – Edited By Kevin Zraly

Great Book! Very Elegant, nice to hold. An excellent choice of articles that hit the main points about wine. Truly a gateway book. A must have! It screams for a sequel that will focus on the next generation of wine trailblazers and educationalists.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The 2009 Bordeaux is on the way and it should be a great one - critic Robert Parker likes 'em

If you read anything about wine; it comes as no surprise to learn that the critics are going gaga about the quality of the 2009 Bordeaux; possibly, even better than the 2000? “One of the best vintages I’ve ever tasted in my career,” renowned wine critic Robert Parker claims. “It is as good as 2005, and certainly a historic vintage”. But hedges himself, “there are always some exceptions to the general rule”.

I myself have had a few early arrivals including La Flor de Melange Mathilde and the Chateau Feret-Lambert which were delicious, both were big, sweet raisin fruit and jammy.

Robert Parker, who lives on the East Coast of the United States, has been travelling all over the Bordeaux vineyard for the past thirty-two years. He sampled the 2009 vintage over a period of twelve days in mid-March 2010 before the futures campaign week at the beginning of April 2010. He publishes his official ratings with commentaries in his Wine Advocate publications.

Usually when Robert Parker makes his assertions it kicks off the buying frenzy of the ‘futures’ market.

I was reading in French Wine News magazine a while back that generally the sales market for premier Bordeaux concerns itself with about 120 estates on the less successful vintage years and 250 châteaux in the excellent vintage years. That’s interesting because in the best years more Chateaux get exposure and that usually means you see a lot of great values in the states. Let's see how that goes due to the fact that all the best Bordeaux is purportedly being bought up by Asia and they are overpaying for the stuff too.

Just think…all the hoopla is about 120 -250 vineyards.

Back in 2010 these ‘futures’ bottles were on sale at theoretically attractive prices, while the wines were still undergoing their ageing process in the châteaux cellars. The cases will not be ready for delivery until the end of 2011 and early 2012. So it’s about time now.

This type of early purchasing assists enthusiasts to obtain rare wines in advance, that will be essentially in demand now depending on the reputation of the vintages and the individual châteaux.

According to Robert Parker there are a large number of really good ratings and several all-out extreme scores. Saint-Emilion is a good example with Angélus (95-100), Bellevue-Mondotte (95-100).

Furthermore, Cheval Blanc (98-100) or Pavie (96-100). But equally in Pomerol : Clinet (97-100), Clos l’Église (96-100, l’Église Clinet (98-100), l’Évangile (96-100), Hosanna (98-100) or Petrus (96-100). The same goes for the Médoc wines : Cos d’Estourmel (98-100), Lafite Rothschild (98-100), Latour (98-100), Léoville Las Cases (96-100), Léoville Poyferré (97-100), Margaux (98-100), Montrose (96-100) or Pontet Canet (97-100) are also in the uppermost.

Come late January the major wine tastings begin running through early May. So we'll see what we run into. Personally, I look forward to the full swing arrival of the vintage because I am certain there will be some great sleeper wines.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wine Speak and Wine Sensory References Now Available!

New working versions of the Wine Speak and Wine Sensory Guides that I have been putting together for some time are now available to view. You can also find them in the 'Tool and Resources' section of my blog. Happy Holidays and enjoy this season with good friends and great wine!