Archive for April, 2012

Revisiting the 2001 La Rioja Alta, Ardanza

Almost one year ago I opened the 2001 La Rioja Alta, Ardanza, Reserva Especial.  While there are yearly releases of Ardanza only special vintages have been designated Reserva Especial.  As a sense of how rare this designation is it has only occured in two previous vintages: 1964 and 1973.  We had a hard time finding interest with our first bottle and ultimately did not favor it.  Phil and I discussed my post a few times over the year.  I rather enjoy classic Rioja so the bottle was probably underperforming from its then recent transit to Washington, DC.  While I often revisit the less expensive wines I write about these more expensive wines are typically tasted once due to the cost.  When I saw this wine on the shelves at MacArthur Beverages this month I knew I had to try it again.  This bottle was much better.  With Eric Asimov’s top two Rioja Reservas currently available at MacArthur Beverages I would grab a bottle of this wine along with the 2001 Bodegas Hermanos Pecina.  Open them both up with your friends.

2001 La Rioja Alta, Vina Ardanza, Reserva Especial, Rioja – $30
Imported by The Country Vintner.  This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha. The fruit was fermented in stainless steel then aged for three years in four-year old American oak casks.  The medium-strength nose revealed textured fruit, spice, and wood notes.  In the mouth the wine was medium-bodied with a mixture of savory and tart red fruit showing subtle strong grip while retaining delicacy.  There were notes of spice and wood box mixing with citrus-like tannins which coated the teeth and lips.  There was understated weight in the finish with tart and bluer fruit.  There is plenty of acidity throughout.  The mature notes are underpinned by a youthful mass that is suggestive of long development.   ***(*) 2017-2030.

Phillipe Cambie’s Les Halos de Jupiter

The Moons of Jupiter, Astri Medicei, Galileo Galilei, 1610, Image from Museo Galileo, Florence, Italy

Last week I happened to find myself driving near a Total Wine store in Virginia.  Not willing to waste the opportunity I quickly stopped by.  I immediately spotted these two distinctive bottles with Phillipe Cambie’s name on them.  Phillipe Cambie is a famous consultant whose upbringing in the Mediterranean has made him addicted to Grenache.  Les Haloes de Jupiter is a negocient project he works on with Michel Gassier of Chateau de Nages.  For Phillipe “Grenache is the king of all grapes and the natural leader of all Rhone varietals” so it is natural that this Grenache-based project is named after Jupiter.  Both of these wines are more than two-third Grenache.  Of these two powerful wines my recommendation is to try the Vacqueyras.  It shows more interesting and persistant flavors along with good overall balance.  They are currently available at Total Wine.

2009 Les Halos de Jupiter, Cotes du Rhone – $15
Imported by Saranty Imports.  This wine is a blend of 85% old-vine Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre sourced from a vineyard near Roaix at the Northern end of the Southern Rhone.  Fermented for five weeks the fruit undergoes malolactic fermentation then is blended and aged.  The Grenach and Mourvedre are abed for one year in concrete vats and the Syrah is barrel aged.  The color is a medium, youthful ruby. There is a slightly heady nose of blue fruit and blueberry liquor.  In the mouth there are concentrated bluer fruit flavors, integrated sweet drying tannins.  There is a lightness to the fruit with hints of the alcohol poking out. I had a hard time getting a read on this wine so I would suggest cellaring it for a few years.  ** 2014-2019.

2009 Les Halos de Jupiter, Vacqueyras – $20
Imported by Saranty Imports.  This wine is a blend of 83% Grenache which is very old and 17% Syrah which is 35 years old.  The fruit is sourced from the Plateau des Garrigues with soils of rolled pebbles and red clay.  Fermented for five weeks the fruit undergoes malolactic fermentation then is blended and aged for one year in demi-muid.  This wine revealed a tight nose of mixed fruit.  In the mouth the dense red and blue fruit mixed with sweet spices and a cool aspect.  There is understated power to the wine with enjoyable sweet tannins which coat the lips and cheeks.  The tannins dry out a touch before sweet spice and minerally blackberry flavors come out.  This is drinkable now but the wine plays it close.  *** 2017-2025.

Tasting 1999 Chateau Palmer at MacArthur Beverages

This week I stopped by MacArthur Beverages to pick up more wine to taste.  Mark called me to the back of the store where he promptly poured me a glass of 1999 Chateau Palmer.  How could I refuse such a surprise?  The Wine Spectator Grand Tour is stopping by Washington, DC so Jean-louis Carbonnier is in town.  Jean-Louis is the North American Manager for Chateau Palmer and he had opened the 1999 with Mark.  Though the bottle had just been opened the nose developed quite rapidly over the first fifteen minutes.  The nose remained more mature than the palate becoming more expressive and forward with time.  Upon first tasting, the mineral vein in the mouth mixed with black fruits in such an enjoyably determined manner that it caused me to pause.  With air it calmed down a bit but the flavors in the mouth remained youthful and focused.  I very much enjoyed the initial trajectory of this wine.  Please enjoy my mini tasting note below.

1999 Chateau Palmer, Margaux –
This wine is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon,  46% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot.  The slightly mature nose had a tight core with lifted aromas of leather it.  The nose rapidly opened up with   The mouth was quite different with a tighter and young core of black and red fruit, a very strong racy mineral vein throughout, and good power.  In the finish the flavors turn towards redder fruit with softer, well-integrated tannins.  The good balance between fruit, acidity, and tannins made this young wine quite easy to drink.  A pleasure to smell now but it should be cellared for maturity.   ***(*) Now-2025.

Frothy and Floral Single-Vineyard Prosecco

Vineyards at Cartizze, Prosecco, Image from sandro vitiello (flickr)

Recommended by Tim as an excellent single-vineyard Prosecco both Jenn and I were immediately pleased by our first glass.  Jenn even remarked that this might be her bubbly selection for the summer.  Prosecco is a different type of wine in that it is fermented entirely in stainless steel tank before transferring to the bottles after the bubbles have been produced.  This results in a wine with a relatively low alcohol, this bottle lists 11.5%.  This wine from Bortolomiol  is produced from parcels located on the hill of Cartizze which is considered to produce the best Prosecco.  If you are looking for an aromatic wine with sweet floral notes and frothy feel then grab a few bottles of this selection.  With its low alcohol you may readily drink a few glasses and feel refreshed.  This is currently available at MacArthur Beverages.

NV Bortolomiol, Superiore di Cartizze, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC – $19
Imported by Dreyfus Ashby.  This wine is 100% Glera sourced from parcels on the hill of Cartizze within the municipality of Valdobbiadene.  It is a light yellow color in the glass.  The nose reveals ample sweet floral aromas.  In the mouth the frothy white fruit mixed with berries and floral notes.  There are very fine froth bubbles with flavors of rose then spices, a little tang, and sweet notes in the aftertaste.  On subsequent nights the changed from frothy to delicate with a round start, hints of apple flavors, a touch of residual sugar and floral notes in the middle.  Drinking fabulously right now.  *** Now.

The Big and Racy 2011 Mordoree, La Dame Rousse, Rose

April 26, 2012 2 comments

Though we drink the Domaine de la Mordoree, La Dame Rousse, Rose every year but I was still somewhat shocked by the quality of this wine.  So much so I simply drank my glass from the first two bottles I opened amongst family and friends.  I eventually took a note from the third bottle which I opened up at home.  It is on the bigger side of rose but drinks well at a variety of temperatures and maintains its nature if drunk over several days from the refrigerator.  I recommend you grab a few bottles for a picnic or barbecue.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Domaine de la Mordoree, La Dame Rousse, Rose, Cotes du Rhone – $15
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, 10% Carignan, and 5% Counoise sourced from 20-year-old vines.  The perfumed nose wafts out of the glass with aromas of berries and florals.  The big, racy flavors of strawberries and cherries fill the mouth with some creamy feel to them.  Sweet spices coat the tongue and the wine becomes a little chewy in the aftertaste.  Very satisfying now with the stuffing to drink well over the next year.  *** Now-2013.

The Compelling 2004 Odoardi, Vigna Garrone

Last month we tried two excellent wines from Odoardi.  We started with the affordable 2006 Odoardi, Savuto then tried the more expensive 2004, Odoardi, Vigna Garrone.  The Garrone vineyard lies within the Scavigna DOC which is located south of Savuto on the western coast of Calabria.  The vineyard sits on a ridge at 250 meters overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

The Polpicello Vineyard in Scavigna, Image from Siema Wines

Stefano Chioccioli is the winemaker with a degree in agriculture who went on to become certified as an agronomist and oenologist from the University of Bordeaux.  This wine received the highest rating of Tre Biccheri in the 2008 Gambero Rosso.  It is an excellent example of blending indigenous with international varietals.  This is a good drink right now but make sure to give it a few hours of air.  Better yet is to cellar a few bottles so that it may reach maturity.  It is currently available at MacArthur Beverages.

2004 Odoardi, Vigna Garrone, Scavigna Rosso – $30
Imported by Siema Wines. This wine is a blend of 80% Gaglioppo, 10% Nerello Cappuccio, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Merlot. It underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged for 18 months in French oak.  The nose was aromatic with finely textured red and blue fruit along with wood box.  With air a hint of tobacco came out.  In the mouth the steely red fruit mixed with inky blue fruit which was carried through on a minerally vein.  The wine exhibits good grip with a chewy nature in the aftertaste where there are medium textured, ripe tannins.  There are some mature bits to this wine but the cool power and good integration show that this will develop for some time.  ***(*) Now-2022.

Two Vigorous Italian Wines

I have been having great fun drinking Italian wines this Spring and these selections are two reasons why.  The Antica Enotria was good fun because it has just enough bottle age to lose its edge while simultaneously show some mature notes.  It proved quite satisfying for both Jenn and I.  We have been consistently pleased with the wines from Sagrantino di Montefalco so I grab any affordable bottle I can find.  Tim has a good selection of slightly older more expensive wines that I cannot wait to try but he also looks out for the affordable bottles.  The Colsanto is one of his tasty, affordable selections.  Right now it is a vigorous drink with all of the components for aging.  I would buy a few bottles try to several years from now, though I imagine this will easily live for a decade.  These wines were purchased from MacArthur Beverages.

2006 Azienda Agrobiologica Antica Enotria, Aglianico, Puglia IGT – $19
Imported by Farello Wines.  This wine is 100% Aglianico which was harvested in mid-October.  The fruit is fermented in stainless steel, undergoes malolactic fermentation for six months followed by aging for eight months in oak barrels.  The Italian nose had aromas of red fruit and sweaty leather.  In the mouth the black fruit was quite linear, taking on some wood box flavors along with very juicy acidity.  The dry black fruit was matched by the drying tannins on the teeth, lips, and cheeks.  The flavors were tart in the finish with a long aftertaste of low-lying wood and mature notes.  Pleasing in a rustic manner.  *** Now-2017.

2008 Fattoria Colsanto, Sagrantino di Montefalco, Umbria – $18
Imported by Siema Wines.  This wine is 100% Sagrantino sourced from vineyards in Montarone on soils of clay and lime.  The fruit is harvested at the beginning of October, fermented in stainless steel, then undergoes malolactic fermentation in 70% wood casks and 30% stainless steel.  The wine is then aged for 15 months in wooden casks followed by a further 12 months of aging in stainless steel tanks.  The slightly heady nose reveals aromas of very subtle candied rose.  In the mouth the stoney red fruit immediately starts with integrated drying tannins.  Cool blue fruit comes out, which is lighter in weight, as the inside of the lips dry out and the tongue salivates from underneath.  There is some midpalate warmth, a bit of a racy personality, and some sweetness to this young wine.  *** 2015-2022.

My Guest Appearance at the Greater Washington Wine School

April 24, 2012 2 comments

Last week I met up with Jane Hermansen of the Greater Washington Wine School to be a guest speaker during her “Discovering Spain” class.  I met Jane several years ago while tasting wine with our mutual friend Shane Verburg.  Shane works at Bacchus Importers so it is natural that wine lovers gather at his house.  Jane developed a love of wine while she worked at Vidalia.  Owners Sallie and Jeff Bubens encouraged her to explore her interests by attending local tasting, meet distributors, and to travel to wine regions.  In addition to working part-time at the Wine Specialist she studied with the Society of Wine Educators and Rob Stewart, eventually becoming a certified Sommelier.  She started the Greater Washington Wine School in the fall of 1998.  Today she continues to teach classes both privately and at Bradley Food &Beverage located in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Author and Jane Hermansen

This class was attended by a dozen people.  Jane presented six wines: a sparkler, a white, and four red all of which were under $20.  To accompany the wine Bradley Food & Beverage put out a variety of crackers, cheeses, oils, and other snacks.  In between Jane’s discussions I was pleased to talk a bit about myself, this blog, and thoughts about the wine being tasted.  If you are looking for a casual and friendly atmosphere to learn about wine then you should certainly contact Jane.  Many thanks again to Jane for inviting me and I hope you enjoy your upcoming three week wine-tour of Australia and New Zealand.  Below you will find my brief impressions of the wines we tasted.

The Wines

NV Anna de Codorniu, Brut, Cava, Catalonia – $16
Imported by Frederick Wildman & sons. This wine is a blend of 70% Chardonnay, and 15% Parellada, and 15% Macabeo. Light white fruit with very fine bubbles.

2010 El Coto, Blanco, Rioja – $13
This wine is 100% Viura which was fermented then aged for 3-6 months in stainless steel. White fruit, good acidity, some weight to the wine, and hints of spice.

2008 Bodegas Bilbainas, Vina Zaco, Rioja – $18
This wine is 100% Tempranillo aged for nine months in 50% American and 50% French used oak.  There were aromas and flavors of darker fruit in this modern wine.  Easy going with some barrel notes.

2010 Bodegas Santa Quieteria, Altitud 1.100, Almanza – $9
Imported by Grapes of Spain. This wine is 100% Garnacha Tintorera sourced from 20-50 year old vines located at 1,100 meters. It was fermented, underwent malolactic fermentation, then aged in stainless steel. Cooler blue and black fruit, light to medium bodied, rounded mouthfeel, a complete easy-going wine at a cheap price.

2010 Cellar Pinol, Ludovicus, Tierra Alta – $16
Imported by OLE. This wine is a blend of 40% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 15% Carinena, 15% Tempranillo, and 10% Merlot which was aged four to six months in American and French oak barrels. Riper fruit, jammy, lots of flavors but a little low on the acidity.

2010 Emilio Moro, Finca Resalso, Ribera del Duero – $20
A Jorge Ordonez Selection imported by the Country Vintner. This wine is 100% Tinto Fino sourced from young vines 5‐15 years old which was aged four months in French oak barrels. Black fruit, structured with obvious fine+ tannins and acidity.  Tasty but cleary young and should develop with age.

Two Wines from Estate Argyros in Santorini

April 24, 2012 1 comment

Vineyard, Image from Estate Argyros

Estate Argyros was established in 1903 by Georgios Argyros with an initial holding of five acres.    It specialized in bulk wine production until third-generation Yiannis Argyros started running the estate in 1974.  In 1987 he produced the first estate bottled wines.  Two years later Yiannis Argyros and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos (of Gai’a Wines) met and became friends.  Not only did the initial fruit for the Gai’a Wines come from Estate Argyros but they were also vinified there.  Yiannis Paraskevopoulos remained a consulting oenologist after constructing the Gai’a Wines winery.

Yiannis and Matthew Argyros in the cellar, Image from Estate Argyros

Today the estate is run by fourth generation Matthew Argyros.  There are now 65 acres of vines located in the Episcopi Gonia region at 35-150 meters.  The Atlantis wine series are produced to balance quality and price.   The estate focuses on the indigenous varietals of Greece with these two selections made from Assyrtiko, Mavrotragano, and Mandilaria.  All vines are basket trained with the Mavrotragano vines 20-30 years of age and the Mandilaria 60-80 years of age.  There are some very old sites of vines along with two sites which were just planted last year with Mandilaria and Mavrotragano.  Mavrotragano is being planted more throughout Santorini and is the mostly widely planted new varietal at Estate Argyros.

Harvest at Estate Argyros, Image from Estate Argyros

These wines represent my introduction to the red varietals Mavrotragano, which only grows on Santorini, and Mandilaria which grows on the southern islands.  According to Andrea Englisis of Athenee Importers, Mandilaria is known for its red fruit notes with soft tannins and acidity where as Mavrotragano is known for its deep color, high tannins, and acidity.  The Atlantis Red is blended with 10% Mavrotragano for structure.  My favorite of these two wines is the Atlantis Rose.  There are some sweet fruity notes to the nose but this is counter-balanced by tart aromas and flavors carried through on an energetic yet controlled flow of acidity.  The Atlantis Red steps things up with a very fruity profile.  If you like wine and fruit-cocktail than grab a bottle of the red.  I would drink this now for its fruitiness but it has tannins and acidity to age.  Many thanks to Yiota Ioakimoglou of Estate Argyros and Andrea Englisis of Athenee Importers for answering my questions and providing images..  Both of these wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Estate Argyros, Atlantis Rose, Santorini – $12
Imported by Athenee Importers.  This wine is a blend of 80% Assyrtiko and 20% Mandilaria.  The fruit was fermented and raised in stainless steel.  A vibrant color in the glass.  The powdery nose is reminiscent of Sweet Tarts.  In the mouth there is a soft approach at first then lively flavors show up on the tongue as some grip is developed.  Saline notes and dried herbs mix with the dry cranberry flavors.  The flavors turn tart in the finish as minerals and dark red flavors come out which are kept refreshing by cranberry-like acidity.  The aftertaste continues with tart red flavors.  Rather satisfying right now.  ** Now-2014.

2008 Estate Argyros, Atlantis Red, Santorini – $15
Imported by Athenee Importers.  This wine is a blend of 90% Mantilaria and 10% Mavrotragano.  The fruit was fermented in stainless steel then aged for six months in 600 liter French oak barrels.  The nose began with stinky cheese aromas but those blew off after an hour.  In the mouth there was slightly puckering, juicy, ripe black cherry fruit.  The entry is soft but then there was integrated structure provided by white citrus flesh-like tannins which dried the palete as a fruit cocktail note came out.  A licorice-like vein ran through the aftertaste mixing with juicy acidity, and drying, slightly spicy tannins.   ** Now-2017.

Two Lovely Rioja Reservas

April 23, 2012 2 comments

It was a treat to drink both of these Rioja Reservas.  While La Rioja Alta originated in 1890 and the Bodegas Hermanos Pecina a century later in 1992 they both produce traditionally aged Rioja.  I would summarize the Vina Alberdi as more classic in profile with its leaner fruit and subtle complexities.  I would hold off on drinking it for a year or two at which point it should be fully together.  The Senorio de P. Pecina is a bit more modern with its strong, youthful fruit which easily integrated the extra year of wood aging and still retains a sense of levity.  While this smelled and tasted great immediately upon pouring, it changed the least over the evening so I suspect it will age well. I recommend both of these wines  and that you try whichever one fits your budget.  They are currently available at MacArthur Beverages.

2005 La Rioja Alta, Vina Alberdi, Reserva, Rioja – $19
Imported by The Country Vintner.  This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from the Rodezno and Labastida estates.  The vines are over 30 years old and located on clay-calcareous soils at 1,500-1,800 feet.  It underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged for one year in new and a second year in used American oak casks.  There is an old-school nose of brighter red fruit and tart berries.  In the mouth the leaner red fruit immediately mixed with smokey wood notes.  The fruit was tart up front with noticeable herbs, salivating acidity, and drying tannins.  The fruit became blacker towards the finish.  While it develops in the glass with air it will benefit from short-term aging.  *** 2014-2018.

2001 Bodegas Hermanos Pecina, Senorio de P. Pecina, Reserva, Rioja – $30
A Jose Pastor Selections imported by Vinos & Gourmet. This wine is a blend of 95% Tempranillo, 3% Graciano, and 2% Garnacha.  The fruit is fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts then undergoes malolactic fermentation.  It was aged for three years in American and French oak barrels.  The lovely nose revealed cedary fruit with mature aromas which were supported by youthful red fruit and notes of wood smoke.  In the mouth there are brighter, slightly tart flavors of focused red fruit.  The fruit gives youthful impressions with its freshness, acidity which stands on the front of the tongue, and citrus like tang. This is drinkable now for its youthful yet approachable state but it is certainly worth cellaring for added complexity. ***(*) Now-2022.