Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Stunning Range of Aged Fino's

Earlier this year, Gonzalez Byass released there limited  edition Fino Sherry, En Rama, which is essentially there Tio Pepe just unfiltered and unfined, with a label out of the archives. Well they’re at it again, with the launch later this year of four aged Fino’s, (one is actually an Amontillado) under the Palmas name; Una, Dos, Tres and Cuatro, and again they’ve bee raiding the artwork archive for the label designs (which look very good).

As with the En Rama, they will be bottled straight from the cask with no filtering, clarification or sterilisation and will only be available through specialist wine merchants and high end restaurants, I was rather lucky the other week that I got to taste, what will hopefully be the final products.

Fino Una Palmas – They will be selecting the best casks from 142 which will still be covered with Flor from the 4th Criadera in the Gran Bodega Tio Pepe, where most of the casks are six years old. In the glass this had a very pale gold colour, with quite pronounced aromas of yeast with a hint of nuttiness coming through. This all came through on the palate with a gentle warming sensation from the fortification, all combining to make a beautiful Sherry.

Fino Dos Palmas – These will come from selected barrels from the 2nd Criadera which consists of 150 barrels in the Gran Bodega Tio Pepe. Many of the casks will have lost there Flor so careful selection will take place to ensure that they use barrels which still has there layer of Flor, helping to age the Fino, they will be around eight years old and are quite rare. As expected this was just a little richer than the Una, edging more towards the nutty (almond) characteristics than the yeasty ones of the Una, but still delicious.

Fino Tres Palmas - This will come from the 1st Criadera in the Gran Bodega Tio Pepe, and are around 10 years old, they will select barrels which still has a layer of Flor, but due to there age it will be very fine, and as such very rare. This one had a bright deep gold colour and again showed a much richer version of the first two, much more nuts and now with hints of sweet spice coming through and a greater warming sensation from the alcohol, absolutely stunning.

Fino Cuatro Palmas -  This actually isn’t a Fino but an Amontillado coming from barrels aged around 45 years old, and will be selected from six casks called ‘Museo Solera’ in the Bodega La Cuadraba, which as you can probably imagine means there won’t be a lot of this one. This one though had an amber colour as the Flor had disappeared in the cask allowing it to oxidise slightly, but now along with the nutty flavours you much more sweet spice and baked fruit such as apples. It showed much more complexity than the others, and was absolutely stunning, but that is what you expect from this wine.

Probably should have used a white background!
All four of these Sherries were stunning in there own right, and showed greater complexity and depth of flavours as you moved up the range. Would I buy or recommend them, absolutely. If you know anyone who likes a drop of Sherry, but not your Bristol cream or Croft Original, then these will make a great present, or if you like a drop yourself, go on treat yourself, I will be!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A Legend Lives On

Earlier in the year I was invited to join in on a world wide toast to celebrate the birthday of the late, great Robert Mondavi, to help me celebrate I’d been sent a bottle of their 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, lucky me.

One of the great American wine making pioneers, Robert Mondavi built his first winery in 1966, which was the first major winery in the Napa valley since prohibition had ended. He was a pioneer of putting the Varietal on the label, not naming them generically, he also turned the around the fortunes of the unpopular varietal, Sauvignon Blanc in the US by naming it Fume Blanc. Another one of his many accolades is that of creating one of America’s greatest wines, Opus One, a joint collaboration with Baron Phillipe de Rothschild which had begun as a chat, on Mondavi’s visit to his vineyards in Bordeaux during 1978.

Although it says it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon on the label, it is actually a blend consisting of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, according to the tasting notes, the website says it is a much more eclectic mix of varietals. The wine is fermented in a combination of oak and stainless steel tanks, spending a maturation period of 14 months in oak, of which 20% are new oak.

In the glass you got an opaque inky purple colour, with very pronounced aromas of dark fruits, blackcurrant, plums and cherries with a tiny bit of sweet spice coming through from the background. On the palate you got all the aromas coming through in waves at you, combine this with a good amount of acidity and masses of fine silky tannins, and you got a pretty amazing wine, but that’s what you’d expect when you pay these sorts of prices.

This is a full bodied wine, that at this young stage drinks nicely now but can age for a good few years yet, but really, to get the best from it now, you should really drink it with food. This is a wine that’s definitely worth giving a go if you’re looking to spend a bit a more on nice bottle, but remember it will benefit greatly by being opened a good couple of hours before drinking, and if possible even decanting.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Trip to a Napa Winery on the Silverado Trail

Earlier in the year I got the opportunity to drag the wife to be on a short trip around Napa, would have liked it to be a longer trip, but we did have lot of things planned that we wanted to do, so as you do, I bought several bottles home with me. The first winery we visited was the Black Stallion winery, which is situated on the Silverado Trail, in the Oak Knoll district which is the southern growing region in the Napa valley.

The 32 acres site originally housed an equestrian centre, the Silverado Horseman's Centre, hence the name Black Stallion, after several years of construction they opened there doors in 2007, the original indoor track now houses the wine making production, but if you look around closely you can still see remnants of the original horse stalls. At present they only produce in very small case lots, and unfortunately only available through the tasting room and there online store, which they are only able to ship within the US, however, I thought they are definitely worth mentioning in case you get to go to Napa and get the opportunity to visit them.

The two wines that we brought back with us were their 2008 Shiraz which we purchased; they only produce 510 cases of this wine, just to show you how limited there production is, and the 2009 Pinot Grigio from Monterey, which we’d been given.

On pouring the ‘08 Shiraz, it had a deep almost opaque ruby colour, with very pronounced aromas of dark fruit and spice, which was just amazing. On the palate you instantly got the flavours of dark cherries and black currants, then came through the sweet spices of clove cinnamon and a touch of black pepper, after that in the background you could also find the flavours of cocoa and violets coming through. This Shiraz was, if you hadn’t guessed absolutely stunning, it had great complexity and length of flavours that just came at you wave after wave, combined with a touch of acidity to make your mouth water and juicy tannins, the wine maker really had crafted a well balanced and beautifully drinking wine.

For the ‘09 Pinot Grigio, they only produced 610 cases of this particular wine, in the glass it had a pale apple white colour, with delicate aromas of peach, grapefruit and slightly florally characteristics. On the palate it was much more pear and grapefruit, with a hint of honey thrown in, than the peach aromas you got on the nose, with a good amount of acidity it was a well balanced and enjoyable wine, which would be great chilled on a really hot day.

As I’ve already said, these wines are not available in the UK, but if you are heading out to California then I would highly recommend a stop off at the winery, it was beautiful place, with a great winery and some fantastic wines for you to try!