Patel wines

Patel: Small Winery with Big Taste

When Robert Parker awards your first wine a 95, you know you’ve made something special.

But don’t let that number bias you toward Patel Winery. It’s more of a treat if you taste the Napa wines without any preconceived notions. That’s how I came to meet owner Raj Patel, at last year’s High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. His wines – a Cabernet Sauvignon and the Red Wine, a Bordeaux-style blend – were among my favorite discoveries at the event. When I found out that Raj was returning for this year’s auction, I couldn’t wait to meet with him and taste his current releases.

Patel winesRaj founded Patel Winery in 2006. He secured fruit and a custom crush facility in 2007, and made some wine in 2008. In 2009 he joined the Napa Valley Vintners Association and submitted his Cabernet for review with Robert Parker. More recently he brought on Luc Morlet, one of Napa’s top winemakers. Patel Winery sources its grapes from six vineyards and makes the wine at Luc’s winery.

I could go on for several paragraphs about how the Patel wines are intense yet elegant, with layers of fruit and earth notes that end in a long finish. But here’s all you need to know: Patel wines are really really good.

Over breakfast the morning of the 2015 High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction, Raj and I spoke about Patel Winery, what makes the wines unique and what’s next. Continue reading

May 29 is #LanguedocDay

Languedoc Day

Want to share your love of the Languedoc or looking to discover this wine region in the south of France? Join the Amateur Gastronomer and wine fans on Friday, May 29th for #LanguedocDay.

Why do we here at AG love the Languedoc?

It’s a beautiful place for growing grapes.
The region gets 320 days of sunshine on average. That means picture perfect growing conditions and grapes that can reach their ideal ripeness.

There’s a wine for every taste.
Red, white, rosé, sweet and sparkling, you’ll find it in the Languedoc. It’s the best of all worlds — there are Burgundy varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and Rhône varietals like Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

With so many wines to discover.
The crisp Picpoul de Pinet is perfect for summer and pairs well with seafood and shellfish. Or if you’re in a celebratory mood, Crémant de Limoux makes an excellent alternative to Champagne.

And at great values.
Wines from the Languedoc are extremely wallet friendly. You’ll find many delicious wines for under $20 a bottle.

To join the conversation, pick up a bottle of wine from the Languedoc and share what you’re sipping with posts and pictures on Social Media using #LanguedocDay.

For more information on the wines from the Languedoc visit languedocadventure.com.

>> Connect:
Facebook: LanguedocWines
Twitter: @LanguedocWines

image via Languedoc Wines’ Facebook page

albarino

Albariño from Rías Baixas: Your Go-To Summer Wine

If you’re looking for a wine that is synonymous with summer, look no further than Albariño from Rías Baixas. This white wine from northwest Spain is dry and refreshing with a delicious mix of fruit, floral and mineral notes.

To find the Rías Baixas Denominación de Origen (DO) on a map, look to the upper left corner of Spain. It’s located in Galicia, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and Portugal to the south.

Picnics, pool parties and beyond, Albariño is the wine to uncork at any warm weather celebration. It pairs well with the flavors of the season, especially salads, seafood and shellfish. Or enjoy it with spicy cuisines like Thai, Indian and Mexican.

Albariño is meant to be enjoyed young, from one to three years after its release.

Here are some great Albariños from Rías Baixas to try:

Pazo Señorans Albariño 2013

Pazo Senorans AlbarinoThis Albariño comes from vineyards that are close to the sea, at altitudes of less than 300 meters. Stainless steel and temperature controlled fermentation help preserve the fresh characteristics of the grape.

Pale greenish-yellow in color, the wine opens with aromas of citrus and white flowers that develop on the palate. Refreshing acidity and gentle minerality give the wine a lively mouthfeel, and the crisp finish has a lingering touch of white grapefruit.
$25, 12.5% alcohol

La Val Albariño 2013

La Val AlbarinoThe grapes in this wine come from two estate vineyards at the southern end of the Rías Baixas DO. The Taboexa vineyard with its sandy and granitic soil is situated at 300 meters above sea level, and the Arantei vineyard is at 30 meters above sea level and has clay and pebble soils.

Bright straw yellow in color, the wine has notes of lemon, white apricot and fresh herbs, with orange peel and subtle bay leaf adding depth at the end.
$18, 12.5% alcohol

Burgáns Albariño 2013

Burgans AlbarinoThis wine from Bodegas Martin Códax with its distinctive label is one of the easier to find Albariños at wine shops. It’s named for the hill where the winery is located, which offers views of the Salnés Valley.

Pale yellow in color with some green tint, this wine is aromatic with citrus and stone fruit. Crisp flavors of lemon, golden apple and white peach are nicely balanced with soft acidity. The finish is clean with lingering mineral notes.
$15, 12.5% alcohol

To learn more about Albariño from Rías Baixas visit
www.riasbaixaswines.com.

Slow Food Atlanta’s Annual Ice Cream Social

Chill out with Slow Food Atlanta on Saturday, June 20th at its 9th annual Ice Cream Social. The local chapter of the international nonprofit invites families to taste classic and creative flavors churned by local chefs.

Slow Food Atlanta ICSCome for the fresh fruits and veggies, and stay for the sweet treats. The Ice Cream Social will be held at the Cathedral of St. Philip just after the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, from 12 pm to 2 pm in Child Hall.

This year’s participating restaurants include Beverly Jean Bakeshop; Castellucci Hospitality Group (Double Zero Napoletana, Sugo, The Iberian Pig, Cooks & Soldiers); Community Smith; di Paolo; Empire State South; King of Pops; RO Hospitality (Osteria Mattone and Table & Main); PARISH; Portofino; Queen of Cream Ice Cream + Coffee; Seed Kitchen & Bar and Stem Wine Bar; Seven Lamps; Shake Shack; The Pinewood; The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead; and TRACE Atlanta at W Midtown.

The event is BYOS — bring your own spoon! After tasting the dozens of ice creams and sorbets, guests will cast a vote for their favorite flavor.

Tickets, which include a taste of each flavor and a ballot, are $15 for adults, $5 for children ages 5 to 10 and free for children under five. Click here to purchase tickets online. Tickets will be available at the door until the event sells out.

Proceeds from the Ice Cream Social will benefit Slow Food Atlanta and the Peachtree Road Farmers Market.

Slow Food Atlanta is a local chapter of Slow Food International, a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization founded in 1989 to inform and educate communities on a local, regional, national and international level about food production and making choices in support of good, clean and fair food.

For more information visit www.slowfoodatlanta.org.

Slow Food Atlanta‘s 9th Annual Ice Cream Social, Saturday, June 20, 2015 from 12 pm to 2pm. Child Hall at The Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road, Atlanta 30305.

Codorniu Raventos

Rioja vs Ribera del Duero: A Tale of Two Tempranillos

Can you taste the difference between Tempranillo from Rioja and Ribera del Duero in a blind tasting?

The question was posed to a group of wine professionals last week. We had gathered at St. Cecilia in Buckhead for a lunch and tasting with two Spanish winemakers: Diego Pinilla of Bodegas Bilbainas in Rioja and Jorge Bombin of Legaris in Ribera del Duero. The wineries are part of the Codorníu Raventós group.

Both winemakers offered a glass of what they felt was the characteristic Tempranillo of their region. They then offered a brief history of their winery and how the location affects the Tempranillo grape, to assist us in guessing each wine.

Spain wine mapBodegas Bilbainas is located in the city of Haro in Rioja Alta (within the darker shaded portion in orange on the map). It was established in 1901, and was the first bottler in Rioja. With the Atlantic Ocean 100 miles to the north, the vineyards are influenced by the Atlantic climate. Clay soils give the vines water little by little, and mountains protect the vineyards from getting too cold.

Legaris is located along the Duero River in the Ribera del Duero region (within the darker shaded portion in yellow). It was established in 1999, bringing together tradition and innovation. The vineyards are planted at an average elevation of 2800 feet, and are influenced by a harsh continental climate with hot summers and low rainfall. Pebble soils reflect the sunlight back towards the vines.

Based on the terroir and growing conditions, Tempranillo from Rioja is typically higher in acidity with floral and red fruit notes. Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is typically higher in alcohol content with black fruit notes.

Then it was time for the blind tasting. After knowing what differences to look for in the wines – acidity, alcohol and fruit – it was clear that the wine on our left was from Rioja, and the wine on the right was from Ribera del Duero.

The wines were revealed: Viña Pomal 2010 Reserva from Bodegas Bilbainas and Legaris 2011 Crianza.

Continue reading

Kalfu Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

AG Pick: Kalfu Kuda Chardonnay & Sumpai Pinot Noir

The Pacific Ocean is important to the wines of Kalfu. From the Leyda Valley in Chile, these wines are influenced by the cool coastal climate. The ocean is also reflected in the name — Kalfu, meaning “blue” in the language of the indigenous Mapuche, is synonymous with the vast body of water.

The vineyards experience cool breezes and early morning fogs that help to slowly and steadily ripen the grapes. This is captured in the wines, which exude bright and refreshing characteristics.

Kalfu Chardonnay and Pinot NoirThe 2013 Kalfu Kuda Chardonnay is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes from estate vineyards in the Leyda Valley. The soil is a mix of granite and clay. This wine is unoaked; stainless steel fermentation preserves the freshness of the fruit.

At first sniff you might think this Chardonnay is actually a Sauvignon Blanc because of its citrus aromas. Crisp flavors of yellow grapefruit, tart pineapple and golden apple make it a wine you’d want to sip on a hot day. ($18.99, 13% alcohol)

The 2013 Kalfu Sumpai Pinot Noir is light in body with delicate acidity. Think more Washington State or Finger Lakes rather than California. The wine is 100% Pinot Noir from estate vineyards with stony alluvial clay soil in the Leyda Valley. It was aged for 10 months in 20% new French oak.

Cherry, fresh strawberry and yellow plum mix with white pepper and sarsaparilla, and end in a clean, crisp finish. ($23.99, 13.5% alcohol).

Kalfu wines are produced by Viña Ventisquero.

Brunello glasses

Brunello of Montalcino: A Taste of the 2010 Vintage

By Maxine Howard

Montalcino, a small town in the southern part of Tuscany, is the only place winemakers can produce Brunello. It was the first to receive a DOCG designation guaranteeing the origin of this product. The grape from which Brunello is made is not unique: it is the Sangiovese grape grown around Italy and in other countries around the world. But this variety is Sangiovese Grosso, and the grapes are larger than those of the Sangiovese used in Chianti.

To be called Brunello, a Sangiovese must be:

  • Grown in Montalcino
  • Aged in oak two years
  • Aged in the bottle four months
  • Bottled in the production area
  • Beleased no sooner than January 1 of the fifth year following harvest

In addition, the wine must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%, although most are over 13%.

The terroir and climate vary through the growing area. The ground characteristics run from loose to rocky, the slopes have varying orientations, and the mild Mediterranean weather will have differing impact based upon placement of the vines. But there is one unifying characteristic to the Brunellos: they age slowly and retain their fruit and structure for many years.

The 2010 is said to be the best vintage in recent history, surpassing the previously revered wines of 1997. A major reason for the success of the 2010’s was the longer-than-usual growing season.

At a tasting of seven representative bottles from 2010, the strengths of Brunello and the variations among producers was on full display.

A bottle from Sassetti Livio Pertimali displayed what I considered classic traits for the wine: it had a pronounced aroma of dark fruit. On first taste rich, dark fruit came forward tempered by a wonderful earthiness. It displayed both roundness and length. The tannins were well controlled, but remained at the finish. This wine is aged for 36 months in Slavonian oak (from northeastern Croatia) and 6 months in the bottle. The alcohol content is 14%, and it retails in the US for $65.

Brunello

I had a very different tasting experience with the Brunello from Le Macioche. The producer says the grapes are harvested manually before vinification in wooden vats with spontaneous fermentation by wild yeast and a 25-day maceration period. The wine is aged for 36 months in oak and 14 months in the bottle. The wine announced its distinctiveness immediately with an aroma that was both floral and herbaceous. The taste was lean, with well-controlled fruit and a slightly tannic finish. It was startlingly different from the other Brunellos, but was very tasty on its own terms. The alcohol content is 14.5%.

BrunelloPerhaps my favorite bottle of the tasting was from Le Chiuse. This property is owned by the Biondi-Santi family, which was the original producer of Brunello. Le Chiuse ages its wine in Allier and Slovenian oak barrels for three years. The aroma was of dark fruit; the first sip demonstrated a richness, intensity, and body that demanded attention. The wine had great structure. Its tannins, although controlled, were still substantial. The wine will definitely benefit from additional aging, but you can already see that this is a great Brunello. The alcohol content is 14.27% and it retails in the US for $50 to $60.

Based upon this brief survey of the Brunellos of Montalcino, it is clear that the 2010 vintage is worth seeking out and cellaring for the future. It will pair well with a fine steak or leg of lamb, but will also be a great accompaniment to your cheese course.