Cyber Tuesday: Snowpocalypse Edition!

Well, it’s noon and I haven’t seen a snowflake yet… But the lists of cancellations and closings just keeps on coming!  What better time to surf the interwebs and check out some new wines!  Here’s some fuel for your fodder- in another brush with internet fame (err.. it’s my second), these two wines were submitted as samples from www.winechateau.com.  They’ve certainly made my weekend a little brighter…

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Castello Banfi Belnero, 2010 Italy, Tuscany

The first thing that puzzled me about this wine was that on the website, a customer has posted an (although very favorable) review, referring to it as a Chianti.  I would not call this a Chianti.  Not to nitpick.  This borders on Super-Tuscan status.  Which is great!  It’s a fun category.  I’ve always respected the idea of a Super-Tuscan- I like the “eff this noise, we’re gonna put whatever grapes we want in our wine and DOC/DOCG be damned!” mentality.  How can you not?

It’s a dark, rich wine that has a giant nose of vanilla and dark fruit upon opening.  It shows nice depth, color concentration and will definitely fill your “big red” niche.  Additional layers of tobacco, coffee and mocha offer complexity, followed closely by luscious black cherry, blackberry, fruit compote, roasted herbs and maybe a hint of balsamic.  A pleasant grip of acid reminds you that this baby is all Italian.  I dig it.  It’s one of those New-meets-Old-World styles that accomplishes it’s mission quite deftly.  Furthermore, it’s a definite overachiever for the $19.99 pricetag.  *please note- as of 1.28.14 this wine is sold out via winechateau.com, but they expect to re-up very soon.*

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Fratelli Recchia Ca’ Bertoldi Amarone della Valpolicella, 2005 Italy, Veneto

I was looking forward to this one for two reasons; 1.) it got a 92-point rating from Wine Spectator and 2.) it’s $24!  These two reasons in and of themselves are not earth-shattering, but combine them AND consider that this is an Amarone?  Cha-ching!!  For those that don’t know, Amarone can often be a verrry spendy category.  It’s also an interesting style of wine because it can be a bit divisive.  There are plenty of people out there who might never like Amarone, stylistically.  Speaking personally, I’ve had some that I didn’t care for despite the fact that I recognized them as “good wine.”  However… I can say that one of the most, if not *the* most, knee-buckling wines I have ever tasted was an Amarone.  Granted, it was a $400+ retail bottle of 2006 Dal Forno.  Sort of like saying, “Yeah, I was never the same after I drove that Lamborghini.”  Duh.

So what’s the deal with Amarone?  Why do I call it divisive?  Well, they are made in a specific style- appassimento– in which the grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara) are allowed to partially dry.  This causes them to lose a large portion of their weight, and concentrates their sugar content.  Hence, the resulting wine is almost always rich, heady, and just plain intense.  And some people just aren’t into that…

But I’ll tellya- you find a good one and it’ll just plain blow. you. the. eff. away.  Like seriously, you’ll feel as if one of the secrets of the universe has been revealed to you.  In one moment, you’ll comprehend why so many have chased the dream of winemaking like Captain Ahab for so many years.  I’m not even exaggerating.

Alright, so that was a fun trip down memory lane, but now on to this wine!  And let me start by saying I’ve tasted this wine over the course of three days, and it is still freaking beautiful on day three.  Upon first open it was maybe a little restrained; the nose showed typical notes of preserved/dried fruit, cocoa, some nuttiness (nut brittle, even), anise and figs.  The palate isn’t weighed down or clumsy in it’s fruit/alcohol content.  It’s really a perfect introduction to this style of wine; it doesn’t break the bank and it’s balanced enough to appeal to a broad wine-drinking audience.  On day two the wine seemed to relax significantly, and bloomed with some additional spicy notes and fruity finesse.  All-in-all, I’d call this wine darn good.

One cool perk about Wine Chateau is that on your first order, you get a coupon for $10 off shipping.  Additionally, they offer a Mix-&-Match free shipping on many (not all) wines.  As I maintained on my last post that involved wines available for internet purchase- I can’t see myself as someone who would purchase wine online that often, but once and a while it’s fun to mix it up.  And sometimes online retailers do offer very competitive pricing, and occasionally exclusives on wines you might not find elsewhere.  In the case of one particular wine that comes to mind, it has actually become easier in the last few years to find online than it is for (at least in SC) on-premise accounts to get it.  So, I’d be remiss if I did not say- don’t forget about your small, local wine store!!; but there’s room in the wine world for more than one way to purchase.

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Alright so that’s it for Snowmageddon morning!  Best of luck to y’all in the impending doom.  I hope you have enough wine.  I sure do!

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One Wine to Rule Them All- Verso Rosso Salento, 2012 Italy

THIS is your big Winter Red!!

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I’m 1000% serious.  This is absolutely THE wine you are gonna fall head over heels for during the chillier months that are upon us.  The best part?  You’ve probably never heard of these grapes.  You might not know how to say Verso or Salento (VAIR-so and sa-LAIN-to).  Heck, you might not have had an Italian wine quite like this before.  But trust me, YOU’RE GONNA FLIP!!

This wine is special for several reasons– first, it comes to us from one of my favorite portfolios, Small Vineyards.  In order to be included in Small Vineyards, the wine must be hand-harvested, from a family-owned estate, and be farmed in an ecologically friendly manner.  Note the word organic is not in use here; in my opinion it’s a bit irrelevant- you can trust that this wine comes from people that really cares about their impact on the environment as well as making the best wine possible, which I trust over a USDA certification eight days a week.

Raisins are tasty.

Raisins are tasty.

Second, this wine is big and sexy for a cool reason; a portion of the grapes (no, I’m not sure which ones) were allowed to “raisin”- which is exactly what it sounds like!  Also known as “appassimento”, it is a process of allowing the grapes to hang out and dry a bit- concentrating their sugars.  It is a labor-intensive process, which results in the reduction of the yield.  A labor of love, I would call it.  So it means they end up with LESS total wine to put into bottles, BUT the wine that results is so rich and flavorful it’ll leave you speechless- and (AND!) it it not weighed down with a high alcohol content!  This wine comes in at a solid 14% abv.  That’s a full 1.5-2 percentage points less than your average Cali Cab, Zin or Shriraz- the typical wines “big red” drinkers tend to like.  Balance, people- balance!  And it means you can drink a bit more of this guy without that thick, heady feeling you get after two glasses of Zinfandel.

Alright, so I got wine-nerdy there for a minute- so let’s get moving with HOW IT TASTES!  Because that’s what’s gonna keep you coming back for bottle after bottle.  But before I forget, this wine is a blend of 60% Negroamarao, 35% Primitivo (aka Zinfandel’s parent grape) and 15% Malvasia Nera.  A giant nose of figs, cloves, anise, vanilla, raisins (go figure), a hint of olives and black peppercorns, a nice lift of dried flowers and red berries and blueberry.  The texture is silky, polished and mouth-coating.  There’s some unique spicing at work here that I can’t quite pinpoint… I want to say it’s Sumac, but I can’t be positive.  It’s taunting me.  The wine finishes with elegance and a tangy little pop.

So I saved the BEST FOR LAST!  This bottle will cost ya just $16!!  

To add to the fun, this wine is available as part of TURKEY PACK #2 at Cellar on Greene this year!  That means you can have it along with three other swell bottles to take to your Thanksgiving feast quickly and effortlessly.  Never heard of a Turkey Pack?  Well, you must click here and check them out.  They’re only our most popular wine club item every year!  Good news is, you can absolutely grab them as a walk-in purchase- it’ll take 2 seconds for us to pack you one.  So you can leave it til last minute, if you’re at all like me!  

Happy Thanksgiving, wine-lovers!

Beast of the Week- Orin Swift Abstract, 2012

It’s cold out, y’all.  What does that mean?  It’s time for a beast of a red wine!  Stop looking, because you’ve just found it.  After all, who does beast better than Orin Swift?  Maybe a few.  But not with the same kind of finesse.  So, I write to you today from under a fleece blanket, wearing a hoodie, having refused to turn on the heat last night.  House is a balmy 66 degrees.  It’s mornings like today’s that cause conversations like this to take place:

hash tag- bed tweet.

hash tag- bed tweet.

So now that I’ve managed to get out of bed without the assistance of a wifi-enabled thermostat that also makes coffee (speaking of which- I would marry this gadget if it existed), we can talk about this gigantic beast of a wine!  Yep, it’s early, but it’s okay.  You need this wine in your life to get through these first painful days of “winter”.  Been itching to build that first fire of the year?  Plan on it, plan on a bottle of this to go with it, and you’ll be a happy camper.  This wine is good for sipping on it’s own after dinner- not that it wouldn’t be good with food, but it’s rich palate makes it great as a stand-alone.

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Look at that!  A way cool label.  Something Orin Swift Wines also excels at.  The last vintage of the Abstact was an all-black label, with raised, textured pictures on it.  Also pretty cool, but this one is a little more eye-catching.  So the 2012 is a blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah and Syrah of undisclosed percentages.  The fruit was sourced from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Amador and El Dorado.  The nose has a nice California Grenache-y wildness- some high notes of herbs, red raspberry and a hint of fresh flowers.  Give the glass a swirl, however, and be prepared for vanilla, vanilla, vanilla- and some intense blackberry liqueur, black cherry, dark chocolate and black licorice.  Sage, pepper and a touch of clove are hiding in there, too.  I should also mention that this wine is a whopping 15.7% alcohol- heat is definitely a trademark of Orin Swift wines, but the booze is carried here gracefully and without awkwardness.  Like this:

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She’s in a chariot, in case you can’t tell.  I searched long and hard for a better image, but no luck.  AND in case you don’t know who this is- ONLY one of the greatest, most deliciously vile female characters ever written- Atia of the Julii.  Love. Her.  

This wine greets you with flashy, dark fruit and leaves you with a brooding spice content and a bit of tannin.  That’s always what I’ve liked about the Abstract, in particular- it’s pensive and dark and a little closed.  The Prisoner is eager to meet you and smiles a toothy grin; the Abstract stares you down for a few minutes before agreeing to shake your hand.  Once it does, it is generous, hangs on firmly, and does not disappoint.  I consider this wine to be a steal at $28 retail.  It is for sale at Cellar on Greene as we speak, so I suggest hopping to it before it’s too late!  Orin Swift wines are almost always scantily available, and once November and December roll around, even more so.  Happy drinking!

 

 

Cantina Fratelli Pardi Sagrantino di Montefalco, 2006 Italy

Wow.  Just wow.  This seems like the only suitable way to introduce this wine.  If you made it past the title (which is kind of a mouthful, not gonna lie), you’re in for a real treat on this Monday afternoon.  I have fallen head over teakettle for this wine, and I remain somewhat awestruck by a.) how surprised I am that I like it, and b.) how FREAKING good it is.  I still, at the end of each sip, marvel at how amazing it is.

Okay.  So first things first: what the heck is it?  Sagrantino is the grape, and it only grows in this one place.  Montefalco is the specific region, or as I’m learning, “comune” that it comes from, which is in the Umbria region.  Sagrantino di Montefalco has it’s very own DOCG status, as of 1992.  Only about 250 acres of Sagrantino are planted in the wee Montefalco.  That’s not a lot.  AND that accounts for how rare it is to see this wine outside Italy. ***DING DING DING*** this wine is SUPER SPECIAL!!  Sagrantino can be made into a regular old red wine, or in this case, a Passito style.  Passito, aka “raisin wine” is a style of wine that involves laying the grapes out to dry, and concentrate their juice.  It results in a dessert-style wine, almost as if a wine and a port had a delicious love child.  So now that you’re used to saying “Sagrantino” and “Montefalco”, and have learned more than maybe you care to about all this, let’s progress to the fun part!!

I really don’t know where to begin here!  This is kind of a must-experience.  On the outside, you can clearly see how dark and rich this wine is:

dark n’ stormy

So when you first get a whiff of this, you might think- whoa.  I’m not sure this is my jam.  I’ve opened several bottles of it, and they all seem to have this really brief mustiness when you first smell them.  After that, you definitely get hints of vanilla, cedar, clove.  Close behing are intense dark, cooked (yet not exactly jammy) notes of blackberries, kirsch, a hint of balsamic, raisins, black pepper, and a slight touch of something flowery, like violets.  However, its nose accounts for maybe 25% of it’s personality; it’s alllll about the taste and texture.  It hits you with layer after layer of dark fruit.  It is luscious and silky.  It is dark and intense.  BUT- it is not weighed down, flabby, or alcoholic (it’s just 14% alcohol!).  And the finish is noticeably dry, which is the real kicker.  A dry finish on a dessert wine?  It must be because Sagrantino is among the most tannic of grapes; so even though it “raisined”, it still maintains some tannin and dryness.  Freakin’ perfect.

The real reason I’m so surprised I like this is because (confession) I HATE port.  I guess hate is a strong word.  I’ve tried maybe one or two in my life that I would consider consuming an ounce of.  Usually, their smell alone is enough to make me grimace and squint.  Perhaps I just haven’t developed my taste for them, or maybe I just flat out don’t like them and never will.  Who knows.  But the important thing to take away from this is IF you think you don’t like port, or dessert wines- TRY THIS!  You might just like it.  You might just be obsessed with it.

You know what this wine is perfect for?  Bringing to someone’s house for dinner who REALLY likes port.  You can show up with this and be all- BAM!  try this!  how d’ya like me now?!  You know what else this wine is good for?  The end of the night.  You’ve had dinner, you’ve had red, maybe you’ve had dessert, maybe no one wants to open another bottle and is teetering on the edge of going home- then you open THIS!  And everyone is surprised and delighted.  But since it’s sweet and intense, no one guzzles it- they just sip it slowly and chill out a bit longer.  And it’s low in alcohol, so you’re not risking ending the night too soon.  You know what else is awesome?  This wine has higher residual sugar than most reds, which means you can open it on a Monday (who doesn’t need a drink on a Monday?) and you can have some more on Wednesday, and some more on Friday, and it’ll still taste good.  I’ve tested this, and it works.  Some of that tannic finish might soften up, but the wine is still yummy.

imported by deGrazia, for those who are curious.

One more thing to seal the deal: Sagrantino in general, including this one, hardly EVER sell for less than $30 a bottle.  (remember that whole- only 250 acres planted, hardly seen outside of Italy thing?  yeah, thats what it means).  Really, look some up.  And because we’re so incredibly awesome, we’re selling this for $18 a bottle!  The only sad thing is, when it’s gone, it’s probably gone (at that price) forever.  So you should snap some up while it lasts.  Also, it is currently by-the-glass at Cellar on Greene, so if you’re still iffy about whether you’ll like it at all, you can come sample some.  I invite you to do so.

Carmen Rodriguez Carodorum “Issos” Tempranillo, 07 Spain, Toro

Yes, I know, it’s Summa-time, and this is a big, nasty Red Wine.  So uncharacteristic of me, given my long-standing obsession with pink and white wine.  But sometimes, folks, you have to break the mold, and this is one such occasion.  A wine so good, that I will still drink it when it’s 90+ degrees outside.  Okay, maybe after I cool down with a glass of Rose, but STILL; I will drink it.  Happily.

So here’s a little background on the Bodegas Carmen Rodriguez wines, per my own accord.  I occasionally buy wine on www.wtso.com (which you should check out, they’ve been known to have some cool deals), and this wine’s big (like, REAL big) sister- the Carodorum Seleccion Especial, 2006 vintage, was on WTSO for something like $35.  As I was feeling indulgent that day, and I am a sucker for a big, nasty Spanish wine, I bought three, untasted.  The box arrived at Cellar and I ripped it open unceremoniously, and even though it was the morning (let’s be honest- when has that ever stopped me?), I opened a bottle. It was one of the more memorable wine moments of my life.  I stood, somewhat dumbfounded, on the verge of comprehending that this was an incredibly special and amazing wine- but had no one to bounce my thoughts off of.  So I mostly just stood there saying “holy shit” to myself over and over.  A good customer whose palate I trust came in a while later and tried it, and agreed that it was a phenomenon.  A force to be reckoned with.

That is all well and good, but we’re still talking about the Big Sister- fast forward to NOW!  I was delighted to discover just two weeks ago that our tiny little hippie friends at Sour Grapes Wine, located in Asheville NC, carry the Carmen Rodriguez wines!  AND was even more delighted to discover that there was a baby sister, the Issos, available!  It may not sound that exciting, but this was pretty much the high point of my week that week.

This wine hails from a hot little pocket of Spain called Toro- located just west of the Portugese border:

Toro has long, hot summers (sound familiar??) and Tempranillo (aka Tinta de Toro) is the primary red grape grown there.  Reds from Toro are generally potent, dense, and pack a lot of character.  Issos is no exception!  She is rich and exotic, and delights the senses with notes of espresso, blackberry liqueur, anise, balsam/cedar, and a touch of vanilla.  The palate is not weighty; the acid really grabs hold and it finishes with a punch of dark fruit, leather and graphite.  And a little smoke.  Day-um, y’all.  I’m serious; this wine is rockin’.  If you’re used to lighter reds, it might be a bit much for you, as the tannins are fairly present- but if you’re, y’know- into that– this is right up your alley.  It’d be amazing with anything off the grill, maybe a spicy-espresso-rubbed steak?  Now you’re talkin.  Merguez sausage?  (one of my favorite things on the planet) HELLS yeah.  Bring. It. On.

I like to imagine that this is what this wine would look like, personified.  Maybe it’s just me:

*le sigh*  A girl can dream.  Until then, we have the wine.  I urge you to come sample a glass (it’s by the glass for the foreseeable future), or take a bottle home for $18.  Also- if you’re feeling muy especial– we do have exactly three bottles of the 2007 Seleccion Especial available for purchase, too, at $48. Oh, and I almost forgot- Issos got a lovely little 89 point rating from Robert Parker- Big Sis got a 92.  Happy drinkin’ peoples!  Til next time…

Goin’ back to Cali, to Cali…

First of all, a big THANKS to Seth Long of Seler d’or Wine Consulting/Blog-writin’ for including me as a guest blogger in his “29 Days of Chardonnay” collaborative effort!  There were some truly inspired posts about the wondrous little grape known as Chardonnay, and I’m glad to have been a part.  For anyone that didn’t read my post, check it out!  I was a little intimidated by all the mad knowledge being dropped by some serious heavy-hitters in the Wine World, so I went with a pretty jovial and interactive post, and I was pretty happy with how it came out.  So by all means, read it!

In honor of the 29 Days of Chardonnay, I wanted to share an awesome Chard we poured recently, and still have in stock.  We also got in a brand new Petite Sirah that I just HAVE to share.  So this has turned into a post about California.  Good old Cali!

funny name, good wine.

So let us begin with the Stuhlmuller Vineyards Chardonnay, 2009 Alexander Valley.  This is by far one of my favorite California Chards I’ve had in a loooog while.  A beautiful bright lemony color, it literally be glimmerin’ and shinin’ in the glass.  Incredibly clear and clean, just looking at it pretty much makes you want to drink it.  Pretty, warm aromas of meyer lemon and other fun fruits like figs, pineapple, kiwi and minerally hints are just gorgeous.  Flavors of green apple, citrus and lemon blossom are beautifully and expressively layered.  Are you an “oakaphobe?”  Try this!!  It’s made with just French oak, only 8% of which was new (the newer the oak, the more of its oakiness it imparts).  Normal retail on this guy is $22.  But if you’re reading this, and you come pick up a bottle (or two or four… til’ they’re gone) at Cellar THIS WEEK ONLY- you can have it for $19.  You just have to tell us you read this!  Wine Enthusiast gave it 91 points and Robert Parker gave it 89!  I actually didn’t know that until I sat down to write this.  Props!

Next up is the Ballentine “Fig Tree Vineyard” Petite Sirah, 2008 St. Helena.  A bit of background on how I came about this wine; from time to time, I have to suffer through different wine companies Portfolio Shows.  I believe I’ve mentioned these before.  So basically there’s a big room, or several rooms, full of open bottles of wine in allllll price ranges, and I have to go through and taste them.  It’s really the absolute worst part of my job.  I mean, open wine and a room full of wine people?  Terrible.  So I came upon this wine at the very end of a long afternoon of wine tasting, and was completely struck by how good it was AND how reasonable it was in price.  This after tasting some serious heavy-hitters.  Also, a ton of our regulars adore Petite Sirah- so I was stoked to find a new one to share.  True to form, this wine was a favorite at it’s first wine sale appearance two weeks ago, and its currently a by-the-glass pour as well!  So you can come taste it any old time you want.  But beware- it’s only 1050 cases produced, so that means it very well could go bye-bye at some point, if we keep selling it at this rate!

Speaking of 1050 cases produced, that is another crucial point- a small-production California wine for this price is pretty unheard of (we’re selling it retail for $20!).  Now lets move on to how it tastes!  A whopper of a palate- big notes of boysenberries, blackberry liqueur, blueberries, a tight core of spice and purple-teeth-inducing density.  It’ll be worth having purple teeth to drink this guy up.  Meaty and manly, yet with soft edges, remarkable smoothness, and no flabbiness.  Nice hints of black pepper, sage, vanilla and caramel.  A truly delicious bottle of wine.  A dream come true for your next rainy day beef stew, roasted lamb or big ‘ol steak.  Enjoy this now while we still have these chilly nights!

Hope you enjoyed this Cali post, I’m gonna wrap it up for today.  I’m jetting off to Vegas on Thursday, so if you follow me on twitter, be prepared to hear about all the ridiculous wine I’ll be drinkin’!

Orin Swift “D66” 2009 France… yup, France!

Orin, Orin, Orin… so many new releases this year, I can barely keep up!  And you continue to impress, especially with your label art…

Simple, graphical color-blocking.  I like.  What’s inside?  A blend of mostly Grenache, with a little Syrah and a little Carignan.  So, it’s a Rhone blend?  Well, yes… sort of.  It has broken the mold of Rhone blends.  Shattered it, actually, into a million pieces.

Now I’m no Fancy Sommelier, but if I blind-tasted this wine, I don’t think I’d have ever guessed it was from France.  Spain would’ve been my best guess, probably Jumilla.  Although I wouldn’t have faulted myself for this error, since Vin de Pays de Cotes Catalanes is practically in Spain.  This wine actually reminds me a bit of the “I-will-live-forever-in-cult-infamy” wine from Bodegas El Nido called CLIO, which is a Monastrell-Cab blend.  Many have fallen victim to it’s charms and never recovered, destined to one day be on a therapist’s couch whimpering “Once I tried the Clio, nothing ever really impressed me again.”

But that was before they met D66.  This is a true Orin Swift wine- rich, opulent, hedonistic, and seductive.  Almost black in color, it’ll coat your glass with it’s silky layers of dark fruit, spice, and moist earth.  Notes of bitter cherry, raisins, toasty vanilla, and exotic Asian spices are all perfectly balanced out in it’s 15.2 alcohol content.   A nice amount of tannin on the finish distinguishes it from just your average big nasty fruit bomb.  It’s truly gorgeous.  If I were you, I’d snap one up quickly as these wines sell out faster than you can say terroir.

If I may use a clever analogy, the D66 is sort of like French Wine Meets Monster Truck Rally.  “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!  ORIN SWIFT DOES FRANCE!  Death-defying stunts and POWER POWER POWER!”  Okay, so I’ve never been to a Monster Truck Rally, but I have memories singed into my consciousness of those TV commercials.  I don’t mean to trivialize the D66 by any means, but this is just where my mind went with it.  Call it French wine on Steroids.  Call it French wine “juiced up.”  Call it whatever you want.  It’s a beast.  Enjoy.

This wine is currently in stock at Cellar on Greene for $42.  Check out Orin Swift Cellars Website for more info on all their juice.