Thursday, April 23, 2015

Five Top Red Wine Values under $20 - that are Big and Bold; that Drink 3 to 5 times their Cost - A Special Report by Wine Correspondent Ralph Del Rio

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

Every now and then I jot down some of my favorites values; especially when they knock your socks off! Here are 5 wines that are ridiculously good. They are big tasty wines. Decant if you like...but not necessary. All of them are delicious on their own or with a hearty meal, stew or grilled meats. Try them today, they won’t disappoint.

Dona Paula Black Label Red Blend Argentina, South America 2012 - Whiffs of plum, spices and juicy red pepper stand out in this very harmonious(Is it forward or not?) and balanced wine; with round integrated tannins and a deliciously endless finish…grapes are from a very high altitude.

Substance Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, Washington 2013 - Charles Smith, who continues to make great wines at all prices…the 2013 Substance is big and bold with aromas and flavors of cassis, wild flowers, pencil shavings and tobacco it is a great wine at any price; tastes 3 times what wines like this are usually going for…not kidding.

Bodegas Castano Solanera Spain 2012 – It comes through importer Eric Solomon. Every year it’s one you can count on. This is better than the 2003. It’s rich and harmonious with black raspberries, blueberries and black currants abound. It’s very full-bodied, very intense but somehow approachable. Magic for the price. It taste almost five times as much which sounds totally preposterous!

Gerard Bertrand Corbieres 2011 Languedoc-Roussillon, France - the 2011 Corbieres Terroir offers an elegant lead pencil, tobacco leaf presence and with blackberry notes and plummy aromas and flavors. It has enveloping solid structure with a persistent feel that goes into a memorable finish

Bodegas Zerran Tinto Spain 2011 - a Jorge Ordonez from the region of Montsant which by the way has soils just like its neighbor, Priorat! The overall balance is remarkable, very intense black fruit flavors with high level of concentration with hint of vibrancy. The fruit is ripe, chewy with earthy, smoky nuances on the palate and the retrohale.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Just like Wine; Tasting Whiskey is best appreciated when you Compare and Contrast the profiles...

Just as wine; tasting whiskey is best explored by direct judgment and evaluation which is how you get the appreciation of flavor distinctions and differences.

But unlike in wine tastings, the nose or bouquet is not one of the overriding aspects in drinking whiskey.

...Usually, the ultimate impression of the nose is typically gone after the long savory finish.

There are 5 main areas/regions for whiskey to compare…I have included some key background
1.       Scottish whiskey (Scotch; in Scotland it is spelled whisky…As a general rule, American-produced and Irish varieties spell the spirit, "whiskey," while Scotland, Canada, and Japan refer to it as "whisky.")

Also, note that a single-malt whiskey is the product of a single barrel and does not mean that it is of a higher quality.

The "single" part only means that the whiskey is the product of one distillery, not the kind of grains or number of grains that go into the whiskey.

2.       Kentucky whiskey (Bourbon;  is defined as any straight whiskey made from at least 51 percent corn that has been aged in new charred oak barrels in the United States.

Also note that Scotch whisky ‘can’ be aged in old oak barrels, so a lot of the barrels are sent from the United States to Scotland after they have been used to age bourbon.

3.       Canadian whiskey

The rule for Canadian Whiskey is that It must be fermented, distilled and aged in Canada. That’s it. Like bourbon it is usually made from several different grains. But in Canada each grain is usually fermented, distilled and aged separately. They are only combined together at the very end. Which changes things a whole lot for the Whiskey.

4.       Tennessee whiskey

Tennessee whiskey is straight bourbon whiskey produced in Tennessee. Arguably, Tennessee says it is not Bourbon! It is whiskey created by distilling a fermented cereal grain mash to create a spirit not exceeding 80% alcohol content by volume aging the spirit for at least two years at a concentration not exceeding 62.5% at the start of the aging process. The whiskey is soaked in charcoal chips before going into the casks for aging.

5.       Irish whiskey

Most Irish pot still whiskey is distilled thrice (three times), while most, but not all of the Scotch whisky is distilled twice. Peat is hardly ever used in the malting process, so that Irish whiskey has a smoother finish as opposed to the smoky, earthy nuances apparent in some Scotches

Furthermore, Here are some flavor profiles and some overall impressions:

 1. Scotch is the prototypical explosion of malt, peat and scorched soil. Single-malt scotch means that the barley used stems from a single distillery, no blending. The flavor is relatively sharp and earthy.

 2. Bourbon is corn-driven and usually blended, letting a more creamy, round and gentler flavor than the stately but stoic Scotch counterpart.

 3. Canadian whiskey can be even more softer and sweeter than the higher-end Bourbons. A caramel-like impression is a characteristic. It sometimes feels more delicate in comparison to American whiskey.

 4. Tennessee is recognized for their sugar maple charcoal filtering process. Highly similar to Bourbon in general. It is similar to Scotch in that it is usually aged in new charred oak barrels, for at least 2 years

 5. Ireland doesn't malt their barley, and that absence becomes very clear on the palate. Scotch is smokey and peaty. Irish whiskey is a lot more perfumed and round on the palate.





Thursday, April 16, 2015

It’s April...its time to taste the Classic Bordeaux in Barrels for ratings and pricing. It's called “En Primeur”...What about some thoughts on California and their older wineries…

It’s April and that usually means its time to taste the Bordeaux in Barrels. These “En Primeur” tastings is Bordeaux bring on a who’s who in the wine tasting world to rate the future of the vintage and what the effects on the market might be; Granted there is an idea based on previous vintage information, but nevertheless there is always excitement.

The wines focused on and tasted  during “En Primeur’ are usually the classics, the older wineries, the 1855 Classification Growths, the heavy hitters from the left and right banks.

So in honor of Bordeaux I am going to write about and list some thoughts on California and their older wineries…How’s that!?!

As Karen MacNeil’s nicely researched ‘The Wine Bible’ (I totally recommend) puts it…

By the turn of the 20th century nearly 300 grape varieties were being grown in California, providing for its nearly 800 wineries. Worldwide recognition looked pending, especially after helping solve the Pheloxera disease crisis in France by using American rootstock saving the Bordeaux vineyards.

Yes! That actually happened.

But then suddenly on January 16, 1919... the 18th Amendment ushered in the beginning of Prohibition.

The rest is history until California came roaring back in the late sixties and seventies.

Let’s review some of the classic California Wineries, wines and oldest vines.

In the late 1800’a and early 1900’s…During this period some of California's oldest wineries were founded including :

Buena Vista Winery, Gundlach Bundschu, Inglenook Winery, Markham Vineyards and Schramsberg Vineyards. – Great pedigree with abundant value…and then some

 In a way, these wineries should be looked upon, here are some tid-bits.
So here’s a nice list of 100 year old wineries….

• Beaulieu Vineyards –Founded in 1900, a great place to visit too

• Beringer – Famous Rhine House completed in 1884; I'd like to add, as part of their line the Knights Valley Cabernet provides such a great consistent value 

• Charles Krug – Founded in 1861 by Charles Krug, owned by Peter Mondavi

• Chateau Montelena – Established in 1882 by Alfred Tubbs.

• Inglenook – This Chateau dates back to 1879

• Nichelini – Founded in 1890 and the same family owns it today

• Schramsberg – Founded in 1862, the present owners purchased the winery in 1968

• Trefethen Family Vineyards – Winery built in 1886, Trefethen begins in 1968

 • Buena Vista Winery – Pioneer Haraszthy founded Buena Vista Winery in 1857 on a site in Sonoma

Check them out, keep them handy...Good wine, good conversation.

Here are also some California vineyards that have some of America's Oldest Vines along with a blurb or two….

Michael David Winery Ancient Vine Cinsault

Back then these 128-year-old vines were planted, Grover Cleveland was the USA president, and when you needed to get to get around in a hurry you rode a horse and buggy.

Scherrer Old & Matua Vines Zinfandel

A wine that is multi-generational; Fred Scherrer makes it with fruit from vines his father and grandfather planted in the 1970s and 1912, respectively.

Turley Duarte Zinfandel

Using ancient vines of Contra Costa County, this red zin pulls from the Salvador, Evangelho and Mori vineyards (the Mori vineyard spooky story is that it was planted by a pair of gravedigger brothers in the 1940s).

Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock Heritage Red

The Bedrock Vineyard purportedly has 33 acres of ancient vines date from 1888; as landowner Morgan Twain-Peterson has said, "This vineyard has a long history, and I'm just passing through."

Ravenswood Old Hill Zinfandel

It has been reported since 1871, that journalists were praising this vineyard; the Pacific Rural Press wrote that its wine was " any in the state."

Also, for good measure I thought I’d mention the famous 1976 Reds
from the Paris tasting because they competed against many “En Premeur” wines…These wines have gone on to good fortune and status

The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 or the Judgment of Paris was a wine competition –Reds:

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1973 

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971 

Heitz Wine Cellars Martha's Vineyard 1970 

Clos Du Val Winery 1972 

Mayacamas Vineyards 1971   

Freemark Abbey Winery 1969 

As you can see California has some very cool historical vineyards and wines to keep you busy on this kind of subject.



Friday, April 10, 2015

What is a Cult Wine?...Let’s expand a little on the Cult Wines of Bordeaux and California…

What is a Cult Wine?

A cult wine is essentially an American term used to define a high quality, exceedingly expensive wines that are produced in very small quantities and are highly sought after by collectors. It refers mainly but not exclusively to Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced by a group of Napa Valley wineries.

Similarly wines from Bordeaux of extraordinary quality are also hunted and pursued by such accumulators.

The thing is that outstanding cult Napa Valley and Bordeaux wines is that they have this deservedly rich intrigue. These wines are rare and veiled gems and are a lot are true rock stars. For some folks the whole quest is in turning up one of these bottles.

Let’s expand a little on the Cult Wines of Bordeaux and California…

Cult Wines Bordeaux

The cult wines of Bordeaux tend to be left-bank cabernet-based wines that ranked highly in the Classification of 1855. Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton Rothschild all qualify. Right-bank wines from Pétrus, Château Le Pin, Château Angélus, and Château Cheval Blanc are also highly sought-after. With the exception of Le Pin (which was first produced in 1979, all of these estates have a long history of fine wine production, going back in some cases before the 1700s. The production levels of these wines is generally higher than California cult wines—Haut-Brion, for example, produces 10-12,000 cases annually, Lafite produces just under 30,000, and Petrus produces 6,000. Le Pin would be one of the smallest-producing of the Bordeaux cult wines, at 600-700 cases a year.

Cult Wines California

California cult wines refers to any of the California wines "typically but not exclusively Napa Valley Cabernets" for which collectors, investors and highly enthusiastic consumers will pay very high prices. The emergence of the cult movement coincided with trends in the 1990s towards riper fruit and wines with bigger and more concentrated flavors. The producers of such wines include Araujo Estates, Bryant Family Vineyard, Chateau Montelena, Colgin Cellars, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Grace Family Vineyards, Harlan Estate, Schrader Cellars, Screaming Eagle and Sine Qua Non. All of which have scored 100 point scores from wine critics.

These wines are generally very expensive and are limited production (often fewer than 600 cases per year) and can command several times their "release price" in the secondary market.

Many are flipping and reselling these bottles at a much higher price; sometimes showing up at wine auctions.

Some wine lovers spend years on winery waiting lists in the hopes to have an opportunity to to buy just a few bottles of the Cult Wines. While other side deals with wine shops or similar contacts to purchase Bordeaux futures to get a shot at the wine.