Monday, 31 January 2011

A Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

Having recently posted a wine from Argentina, I thought I’d keep up with the South American theme and move over to their western neighbour Chile. Chile occupies a strip of land that has the Pacific Ocean along its western coast line and the Andes Mountains on its eastern border. They have had long history of wine making, with the introduction of European varieties such Cabernet Sauvignon in the 18th century, their has been a real renaissance since the 1980’s with the introduction of modern winemaking techniques. To the extent, that they are now the ninth largest producing country, and the fifth biggest exporter in the world, according to Wikipedia.

Casillero del Diablo is one of the biggest brands on UK supermarket shelves today; produced by the Concha Y Toro winery and is one of many brands under their umbrella. The name Casillero del Diablo according to the website is supposed to translate to the cellar of the devil, however if you use Google translate, you get pigeon holes/box of the devil, I think their translation sounds much better.

They produce an extensive range covering all the major varietals, including the South American favourites of Malbec and Carmenère, and aromatic whites, such as Viognier, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. We went for the Cabernet Sauvignon, where the fruit comes from the Central Valley, about 70% of the vintage will spend around eight months in new American Oak before being bottled.

On pouring the wine, it had a deep, bright ruby colour, with nice aromas of cassis, plums and cherries, with a touch of coffee coming through in the background. On the palate all the aromas were there and came at you in waves, with a good length to them and a good level of tannin. Combining these together, you got an enjoyable fruit driven wine with a good body and is very well balanced. Would I recommend this wine, yes I would, and at around the £7 mark it shows excellent value.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A Great Little Gem from Argentina

Having read and enjoyed The Winesleuth’s recent postings of her trip to Argentina, I realised that this is another wine producing country that I’d unintentionally ignored on the blog. With this is mind, I paid a visit to my local supermarket just before Christmas to see what they had in stock, and I found, what I hoped to be an interesting bottle. The wine in question was a Torrontes from Vinalba, I know I’ve tasted the Torrontes grape before, but I could not remember what flavours you got, so this seemed like a good place to start.

The Torrontes grape is indigenous to Argentina, and the grapes in question for this wine are grown in the Mendoza region, which is in the foothills on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains. The winemaker is a gentleman called Hervé J. Fabre, who was born in Bordeaux and was apparently one of the first foreigners to recognise the potential Argentina to produce great wine.

This wine is made from 100% Torrontes; it had a pale lemon/green colour with good aromas of tropical fruit, with a hint of citrus coming through in the background, which instantly started to make my mouth water. On the palate you got all the flavours to match the aromas plus you also got a touch of stone fruit thrown into the mix to add that little bit more complexity.

This wine see’s no oak at all, and it doesn’t need it, it has a good level of acidity and a good length of flavour. Combining all these together you got an exceptionally well balanced wine that was extremely enjoyable and very refreshing. Would I recommend this, absolutely, would I buy an Argentinean Torrontes again, most definitely.

Monday, 17 January 2011

A Tour of Napa Valley

Post contributed by Vanessa McDonald

In early October 2010, I had the pleasure of a weekend stay at The Vino Bello Resort in Napa Valley, California. This resort is a wine lover’s dream and I can recommend the location for a quiet retreat or even a meal from the restaurant.

A trip to Napa is not complete without some sort of winery tour and the county offers tours and tastings for every budget and pace, from private limo, coach and train tours that take you to 11 vineyards in a day to the more leisurely option of hot air ballooning at sunrise.

I was with my elder parents so the hotel recommended Platypus Tours. This tour company picks you up and drop you off at your hotel or B&B, provides a picnic lunch and generally keeps you plied with bottled water and bread as needed throughout the day. Our driver and tour guide (Karl) was born and raised in Napa and an absolute font of knowledge on everything in the area. If you can seek out local recommendations, do so as we were able to visit those wineries who were in the midst of harvesting that day and meet the owners of several wineries in the process; not always an option on the larger, more formal train or bus tours. I’ve detailed the 3 of the wineries visited below, enjoy and hope that you get to sample the delights for yourself soon:

Alpha Omega: This winey is located in the Rutherford valley and is one of Napa’s few boutique wineries. Jean Hoefliger has teamed up with the influential Michel Rolland to create a stunning series of wines. This was by far the most sophisticated wine of the day but, also the priciest with their flagship wine going for $170 a bottle. Napa is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon and AO’s does not disappoint with a rich fruit taste of dark cherry, blackberry and cassis giving way to velvety aftertaste of rose petals and fresh plum.

The grounds are also stunning, with a relaxed feel despite how modern and sophisticated the tasting bar area is. There are plush white couches that encourage visitors to rest and take in the stunning surroundings. This is where we sat had our picnic lunch overlooking the winery.

Hagafen: this was the only winery I made several purchases at during the day. Renowned for being Napa Valley’s only kosher winery, this stuff is no Mankiewicz. The winery also gained notoriety when Regan served it at a White House luncheon (it’s since been served at luncheons by every sitting President –the walls of the main hall are covered with menus detailing what was served). The Sauvignon Blanc is truly delicious; clean and crisp with a hint of pineapple and a creamy mix of apricot, citrus, and grapefruit. The creaminess is said to come from the hot days and cool nights these Eastern Foothills receive. A clear winner on the day for me!

The Andretti Winery: Full disclosure, I had had enough by this time so I stayed in the courtyard and ate the fresh grapes that we were able to help ourselves too from the field but, as you’ll see from the link –the courtyard in the late afternoon sun is stunning and genuinely feels like you’re sitting in Tuscany. The specialty here is the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Zinfandel that were offered for $30 for a tasting which I found to be too expensive. Those who chose to imbibe were also offered a tasting of the port style wine, made from grapes of a single vintage and bottled after three years in French Oak. It had a strong aroma of dark chocolate, blackberry and caramel as well as hazelnut. It’s possible to purchase here.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A Great Range of Wines From Turning Leaf

If you’re looking for a range of wines that has something to cater for everyone’s taste, then you should look no further than those produced by the Turning Leaf vineyard. They’re priced at around the £7.50 mark and are available from the major supermarkets and most good off licenses.

I had the pleasure of spending the evening with Stephanie Edge their winemaker, just before Christmas, going through their current range and pairing them with food. Stephanie’s philosophy for the wine is that when it goes into the bottle it’s ready to drink, which to me, sounds like a good place to start!

The first wine we tasted was their Pinot Grigio, I’m not the biggest fan of these as they tend to be very non-descript and uninteresting. This one though, showed good fruit flavours of Pears and Apples, with a good level of acidity and a reasonable length of flavours on the palate. They produced a well balanced and enjoyable drink, which I thought was an excellent example of what can be done with Pinot Grigio, given a little care and attention.

We then moved on to their Chardonnay, this wine is fermented in French Oak and racked off Lees for a further nine months, it is also allowed to go through Malolactic fermentation. All of this creates a rich wine with a buttery texture, giving you flavours of tropical fruit, butterscotch, cedar and a touch of spice coming through in the background. The most surprising part of this wine for me was that despite it going through Malolactic, it still had a reasonable level of acidity, which shouldn’t have been there. On discussing with Stephanie it became apparent that this had been quite deliberate, and the Malolactic fermentation had been arrested before completion. With all this going on in the glass, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was never going to work, but strangely it did. Actually it was a very enjoyable drink, that wasn’t over oaked, was refreshing and provided good flavours with a good length on these.

The first red of the evening was their Pinot Noir, which is a grape that tends to prefer cooler climates than that of California, but if you look hard enough, apparently you can find some cool, shaded areas. This wine spends nine months in French, American and Hungarian oak, which all add there own interesting characteristic to the wine. You had a light red colour with good aromas of Red Cherries, Red Currants and a touch of sweet spice in the background. Combine these with low acidity and low levels of tannin; you got a well balanced, easy drinking wine that on a hot day you could chill slightly and enjoy!

Next we moved on to their Zinfandel, which is one of my favourite grapes, again as with the Pinot, this wine see’s some oak ageing before bottling. In the glass this wine had a wonderful deep, almost opaque ruby/purple colour and pronounced aromas of Blueberries, Violets and spice. You got these aromas on the taste but in a more concentrated, jammy way that come at you wave after wave, first the fruit, followed by the floral violet notes, then the spice and finally cocoa. Combining these with a good level of acidity and tannin, and a long length on those fantastic flavours you got a very good wine, with some complexity and for the price you’d struggle to find one as good.

The final wine of the night was the Cabernet Sauvignon, as before this see’s some oak ageing with their eclectic blend of oak. You got a deep ruby/purple colour again with pronounced aromas of Blackcurrant leaves, Cassis and Dark Cherries. You got a good level of acidity and tannin, which produced a well balanced and enjoyable wine, very typical of what you get from warm climate Cabernet’s.

It was a great evening, with some very enjoyable wine and company! The wine of the evening for me had to be the Zinfandel, which showed some fantastic flavours and complexity resulting in a great drinking and thoroughly enjoyable wine.

Picture Courtesy of WCommunications