Archive for June, 2012

A Savory and Affordable Virginian Wine

It has been some time since I last drank a wine from Virginia.  This first experience with Veritas Winery was a pleasant surprise.  Veritas Winery was founded by Andrew and Patricia Hodson one decade ago in 2002.  When their daughter Emily completed her Masters in Enology from Virginia Tech she became the estates winemaker.  The selection featured in today’s post is primarily Cabernet Franc sourced from vineyards planted in 2001.  Yields are below four tons per acre.  The vineyards are located at 800 feet on Edneytown soils.  This soil series is located on the ridges and side slopes of the Blue Ridge mountains.  They are granitic soils which are very deep and well-drained.  The vines are old UC Davis Clone 1 planted in rows oriented North-South at a density of 740 plants per acre using cordons with spur pruning.  Andrew commented that in the last five years other vineyards have been planted or replanted with new clones using cane pruning thought to be better adapted.  For comparison they recently planted an acre with three new ENTAV-INRA clones at ~1500 plants per acre.  These clones should bring floral, pepper, and spice components to the wine.   Andrew remarked that 2010 was a great vintage for Cabernet Franc.  They experienced an entire month of above 90 F temperatures resulting in tannic maturity, classic flavors, and splendid color.

Vineyard with Saddleback Mountain, Image from Veritas Winery

This bottle certainly reflects the warmth of the vintage.  While the nose was aromatic from the beginning the mouth really expanded after a few hours of air.  If you are new to Virginian wine or are looking for a daily drinker you will find this wine satisfying.  It delivers pleasure for the nose and mouth at a very attractive price.  Many thanks to Andrew Hodson for enthusiastically answering all of my questions.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Veritas, Cabernet Franc, Monticello – $14
This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot which was fermented in tank then aged for nine months in 90% French and 10% American oak.  The wine was a medium ruby with garnet highlights in the glass.  The medium strength nose was followed by a mouth of young blue and red fruit.  It rode an initial wave of toast flavors with underlying tart fruit.  With air this wine became a bit savory, mouthfilling, and showed ripe tannins.  While it does not require age, I would decant this for one to two hours before drinking. ** Now-2016.

A Meaty Wine from Toro

Bodegas Covitoro was founded in 1974 by a group of wine makers.  Today the winery is equipped with latest technology and produces wine from some 900 hectares in Toro.  This was a solid wine which provided ample meaty and smoky notes.  If that sounds appealing then you will be sure to enjoy this solid bottle.  This wine is available at Wine World & Spirits in Seattle.

2006 Bodegas Covitoro, Gran Cermeno, Toro – $17
Imported by Beacon Wine Company.  This wine is 100% Tinta de Toro which was aged for 12 months in American oak casks.  This wine looked a touch older with a light to medium color of ruby with garnet.  The nose revealed toasty, meaty aromas.  In the mouth there were meaty, bacon flavors, mineral notes, and flavors which stuck to the mouth.  There was a nice shining blue and black mineral note which became refreshing and chewy in the aftertaste.  The tannins coated the sides of the tongue.  ** Now-2017.

The Old Vines of Vinicola Benanti

June 27, 2012 1 comment

The wines of Vinicola Benanti are a part of the recent arrivals at MacArthur Beverages.  I grabbed the wines because I was unfamiliar with the producer and they are attractively priced for Etna wines.  Over one century ago Giuseppe Benanti began the production of wine on the family’s farm at Monte Serra on Mount Etna.    In 1988 his grandson, Dr. Giuseppe Benanti revived the production of wine.  Today the estate is run by  Giuseppei and his sons Antonio and Salvino.  The vineyards are located at three general areas: Etna, Pachino, and Pantelleria.  The wines featured in this post originated as fruit from Etna and Pachino.  The Etna vineyards are located at different altitudes and regions of Etna.  The Pachino vineyard is located in south-east Sicily in Syracuse.  The vines are located on a hot and arid plain with soils of chalk and clay.  All fruit is hand-harvested, transported in refrigerated trucks if needed, then produced using minimal mechanical equipment.  The fruit is fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged in French oak.

Vineyard at Mount Serra, Image by Tom McGrew at Benanti

I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed all three of these wines.  For some reason I had it in mind that the white Edelmio was from the 2011 vintage.  When I started reading the back label I was surprised to see it was four years older  It is remarkably fresh and should drink well for several years.  Both of the red wines have the same varietal blend but are sourced from different vineyards.  They tasted quite different and I do recommend you try both of them side by side.  However, if you can only purchase one bottle then grab the Serra della Contessa.  Containing fruit from ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines this wine already has a strong presence in the mouth.  It should still develop for several more years and only become better.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2007 Benanti, Edelmio, Sicily – $19
Imported by The Country Vintner.  This wine is a blend of 50% Carricante and 50% Chardonnay.  The Carricante is sourced from a vineyard on Etna whereas the Chardonnay is sourced from Pachino.  The whole bunches are fermented with indigenous yeasts in French oak casks then aged for 12 months on the lees in the same casks.  The wine is a light yellow in the glass.  The nose reveals delicately textured yellow fruit and a hit of orchard.  In the mouth the flavors start off with a bit of zing on the tongue as light, yellow fruit, some tartness, and flavors of stone come out.  There is a moderately round mouthfeel, plenty of fresh acidity, more stones in the finish, and a silky aftertaste. *** Now-2017.

2005 Benanti, Rovitello, Etna – $27
Imported by The Country Vintner.  This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from Castiglione di Sicilia which is located on northern Mt. Etna at 750 meters.  The fruit is harvested in October.  The vines are 80 years old on soils which are sandy, volcanic, and rich in minerals.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.  The color is a medium earthy ruby.  There is a fine nose of black cherry, fine cedar, and perhaps a touch of pine.  In the mouth the flavors start with ripe-ish red fruit which turns to stoney blue fruit as the flavors lighten up.  There is a wood grain texture with spices and cedar before the flavors become savory with a chewy black note.  There are very fine drying tannins  and nice incense.  *** Now-2019.

2004 Benanti, Serra della Contessa, Etna – $30
Imported by The Country Vintner.  This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from Monte Serra which is located on the eastern side of Mt. Etna at 500 meters. The fruit is harvested at the end of September.  The vines are 100 years old, some of which are ungrafted, on soils which are sandy, volcanic, and rich in minerals.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in very large oak casks, underwent malolactic fermentation, then aged for 12 months in oak barrels.  The good nose reveals low-lying aromas which are almost brambly.  The flavors in the mouth are a touch riper than the Rovitello, more refined with smooth black and red fruits.  The sweetly spiced, fine tannins which coat the lips.  The chunkier tannins make this a good wine to work around the mouth.  ***(*) 2015-2022.

The Latest Vintage of Chateau de Segries, Clos de l’Hermitage

I have seen several emails this month offering the 2010 vintage of the Chateau de Segries, Clos de l’Hermitage.  The 2009 vintage was highly rated by Parker so I suspect there might be some curiosity about the 2010 vintage.  In my review of the 2009 I thought that it had a modern profile, full-bodied flavors, and the structure for aging.  The 2010 is a restrained, balanced style which will benefit from cellaring.  While you could get away with drinking the 2009 right away the 2010 requires age.  I recommend you buy a few bottles to lay down for if you like mature Cotes du Rhone like me then you will want to drink this in five to ten years. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Chateau de Segries, Clos de l’Hermitage, Cotes du Rhone – $25
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This wine is a blend of 33% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 33% Mourvedre sourced from 40-year-old vines.  It was fermented in concrete vats then aged for nine months in 5% new oak barrels.  The wine is a very grapey color in the glass.  There is a light nose of tightly packed black fruit, dried herbs, pepper, and licorice.  In the mouth there are tight-grained blue fruit, fine, powerful tannins, and a little strawberry flavor breaking loose.  With air the wine reveals pencil and pepper flavors along with the structure for aging.  **(*) 2017-2025.

The Latest Vintage of Occhipinti SP68

A wave of new Sicilian wines recently arrived at MacArthur Beverages and Arianna Occhipinti’s SP68 is one of the selections.  In the process of eight years the vineyards which Arianna sources fruit from have grown from one to twelve hectares.  There are 10 hectares located on the original estate in South-East Sicily.  She rents an additional two hectares of old vines which are located 500 meters away. The wines are certified organic.  This is the third vintage of this wine which I have tasted. I thought it much better than the 2010 vintage, particularly the nose.  I recommend you try this wine but make sure you drink the entire bottle in one evening.  My bottle was markedly less interesting on the second night.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68, Sicily IGT – $23
Imported by Louis Dressner.  This wine is a blend of Frappato and Nero D’Avola sourced from 10-year-old vines.  The vines are located on soils of red sand with chalk subsoil at 280 meters.  The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts, skin maceration lasted 30 days, and the wine was aged for six months in stainless steel tanks.  There is a light+ nose of perfumed, sticky, sweet red berries.  In the mouth the wine brings almost medium-bodied black and red fruit supported by stone flavors.  The black and red fruit then takes on levity as an orange citrus notes develop in the aftertaste.  On the second night the wine was a simpler version of itself with noticeable fine, grapey tannins which coat the lips.  *** Now-2014.

Two Lovely Wines from Domaine Gramenon

Last week I received a precise text from a friend with respect to the Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Riasons.  It read “Yummy. Almost viscous.” This motivated me to open the two Domaine Gramenon bottles I had just purchased.  Domaine Gramenon originates back in 1978 when Philippe Laurent and Michele Aubery-Laurent purchased 12 hectares of vines and an old barn in 1978.  This original part of the domaine is located at 300 meters on limestone.  Over the years the domaine expanded to 25 hectares by planting more vines, purchasing 4.5 hetares of plots in Vinsobres, and land in Valreas.  Today the estate is run by Michele and one of her children, Maxime-Francois.  The estate is certified organic and is farmed in a bio-organic manner.  The fruit is fermented without sulphur using indigenous yeasts.  Everything is moved by gravity, there are no pumps.  Some cuvees are aged in vat and others in old demi-muids and foudres.  The wine is bottled without fining or filtration with only some cuvees receiving light amounts of sulphur.

Vineyard, Image from Domaine Gramenon

This was a lovely pair of wines to taste and drink.  Poignee de Raisins, fistful of grapes, alludes to the nature of this minimally handled wine. Though made from the youngest fruit this is quite a serious wine.  I would not necessarily cellar this wine, instead I would give it two or three hours of air before drinking.  I really enjoyed this bottle and started to give serious thought to a Very Good rating.  But then there was nothing left of the bottle to taste!  This bottle of Les Laurentides was almost shutdown.  Opened as the same time as the Poignee de Raisins it markedly gave up less on the first night.  It was not too interesting so I retasted it on the second night. It became quite interesting, finally revealing all of the goodies lurking inside which are waiting for cellar age.  I would buy both of these wines but if you can only afford one bottle then grab the Poignee de Raisins to drink this week.  These wines are currently available at MacArthur Beverages.

Note, we drank another bottle of the Poignee de Raisins in July and it showed brilliantly.  Easily ****.

2011 Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Raisins, Cotes du Rhone – $23
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is mostly Grenache with some Cinsault sourced from the domaine’s youngest vines being 5-30 year old.  The soils are of clay limestone.  The grapes are partially destemmed and both fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for six months in cement tanks.  There is a medium-strength nose of ripe fruit with grapey highlights but it is not overdone.  The nose is evocative of lean strength.  In the mouth the grapey, blue and black fruit coats the mouth leaving a lively gravelly quality on the tongue.  There are sweet, textured spices, and iron-like minerality.  Over several hours the wine fills out nicely with a good mouth feel, weight, and gentle density.  ***/**** Now-2014.

2009 Domaine Gramenon, Cuvee Les Laurentides, Cotes du Rhone Villages – $27
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is mostly Grenache sourced from 50 year old vines on the La Bicarelle plot in Vinsobres.  The soils are of clay limestone with rounded pebbles.  The grapes were partially destemmed, fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for eight months in oak barrels.  This is a medium ruby, blood color.  There is a light, low nose.  In the mouth there is a ripe and tight perfumed core of fruit.  The ripe sweet spices and ripe tannins coat the lips but in a very appropriate amount.  There are plenty of ripe red and blue fruit in the finish where there is a stoney note with a touch of cedar.  With air a slightly maturing note takes place.  This was much better on the second night, definitely for the cellar.  ***(*) 2015-2022.

The Mature 2007 Tablas Creek, Cotes de Tablas

Here is another quick post for today, also from the 2007 vintage.  I have been a big fan of Tablas Creek Vineyard for as long as I can remember.    I suppose it is only natural given my love of Rhone wines.  Since I prefer the Cotes de Tablas within the first five years I thought it would be fun to try a bottle.  I would certainly drink these sooner rather than later.  It has lost the grit of youth and is taking on a soft, sweet personality.  While it will last for several more years I suspect it will lose whats left of its verve and become too sweet.

2007 Tablas Creek, Cotes de Tablas, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 25% Counoise sourced from the organic 125 acre estate vineyard.  It was fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts then aged for 12 months in French oak foudres.  There is a nose of sweet, ripe, cherry Lifesavers.  In the mouth the cherry notes mix with blue fruits and bramble.  A sweet side comes out with notes of raw vanilla cookie dough.  Lush with a caressing personality it seems at its peak.  *** Now-2015.

The Stones and Blue Fruit of the 2007 Chelti, Saperavi

June 22, 2012 2 comments

I seem to have drunk several bottles of wine from Georgia this summer.  This selection is a tasty and affordable bottle of wine which will work well for daily consumption.  It has a profile that should appeal to many.  While there is the structure for further aging I rather like the amount of fruit right now.  I recommend you give it a try!  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2007 Chelti Estate Vineyards, Chelti, Kakheti – $13
Imported by Potomac Selections.  This wine is 100% Saperavi sourced from 11-year-old vines on sandy, rocky soils.  The nose is light with earth, stones, and blue fruit.  In the mouth the tight stoney, blue fruit is steely with acidity eventually becoming blacker in flavor.  The tighter, stoney fruit mixes with watering acidity, and some drying tannins.  There is a certain lightness and contemporary style to the wine.  ** Now-2015.

A Pair from Montsant

In continuing my exploration of Montsant wines I purchased these two bottles. There was a brief period where I enjoyed the Buil & Gine wine but in the end it just was not my type of wine.  The Cellers Sant Rafel on the other hand was very enjoyable and just one reason why I enjoy Grenache and Carignan from Spain. The estate was previously an abandoned farm with terraced land.  Xavier Penas has been rehabilitating the property since 1997.  Today there are 9 of the 22 hectares planted with vines ranging from 8-35 years of age.  The vineyards are located at 350-425 meters on pebbly soils of clay and limestone.  The production of the two wines is still small at 2,725 cases but Xavier will continue planting vineyards.  I recommend you give this wine a try.  Note, the 2006 vintage was just released so if you try it let me know what you think! These wines were purchased at Wine World & Spirits in Seattle.

2007 Buil & Gine, 17-XI, Montsant – $20
Imported by Cavatappi Distribuzione.  This wine is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Tempranillo sourced from 10-45 year old vines.  The varietals were separately fermented, underwent malolactic fermentation, then were aged for six months in American oak casks.  This started with medium-bodied tart and stewed fruit with a core of decent red and blue fruit.  With air it became slightly gritty with red fruit and fresh, sandy tannins.  However on the second day the stewed notes returned.  ** Now.

2005 Cellers Sant Rafel, Solpost, Montsant – $24
Imported by Casa Ventura Imports.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Carignan, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged for 12 months in 60% American and 40% French oak barrels.  The nose revealed sweet spiced brambly fruit with a vanilla note.  In the mouth the brambly red fruit mixed with minerals, a cool aspect, and fine sweet tannins with spice.  With air it remained focused and young but managed to loosen up a bit.  There were ripe and sweet tannins which coat the inside of the lips.  There was good texture and a spicy note in the finish.  Drinkable now after two hours of air or wait one more year.  *** Now-2022.

Rose for the Heat Wave

Very hot weather is about to settle in Washington, DC.  With temperatures forecast to reach 97-99F I thought I would post about three roses we have recently tasted.  When it is hot and humid I prefer to start with a glass of rose instead of white wine.  For this extreme heat I would recommend the Chateau Pigoudet for it is refreshing but does not require much thought.  We preferred the Domaine Jean Reverdy, its unique profile attracts ones attention.  However it is robust so I would buy a few bottles to drink at the end of the summer.  The Chateau Pibarnon, last year’s vintage, was interesting for its nuts and wood but they have overtaken the fruit.  Its high-price is hard to swallow so I would pass on this wine. These wines were all purchased from MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Chateau Pigoudet, Le Chateau Rose, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence – $13
Imported by Oslo Enterprise.  This wine is a blend of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 10% Syrah sourced from soils of clay and chalk with gravel.  In the glass this was an ultra-light rose color.  The light, floral nose had a hint of sweetness.  In the mouth it was very focused, crisp on the tongue, before some texture and weight developed.  The tart fruit made way to a dry finish with a gentle ripeness in the aftertaste.  ** Now.

2011 Jean Reverdy et Fils, Rose, Les Villots, Sancerre – $18
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir of which 90% is pressed and 10% saignee.  This was a very light pink rose and salmon color.  The light nose revealed some dried herbs and an asparagus note (in a good sense).  The flavors filled the mouth with stones, dry fruit, green veggies and old-perfume.  This was more robust with plenty of acidity that left a tang on the sides of the tongue.  It finished with dried herbs.  I would give it another six months to loosen up. ** Now-2015.

2010 Chateau de Pibarnon, Rose, Bandol – $35
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This wine is a blend of 50% Mourvedre and 50% Cinsault.  The color was of salmon and dried roses.  The nose started off with some wet dog before moving on to a light nose of fruit.  In the mouth the flavors were tart and light with a bit of acidity at the front of the mouth.  Then a vein of mildly sweet and textured flavor carried through, taking on a lightly creamy mouthfeel.  There were flavors of nuts or perhaps wood in the finish as juicy acidity came out leaving an aftertaste with wood notes.  ** Now-2013.