Tag Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

Smith & Hook red blend

AG Pick: Smith & Hook 2013 Proprietary Red Blend

It’s chilly, gray and drizzling where I am. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to close my laptop, light a fire, and get cozy on the couch with a good book and glass of red wine.

The wine I’d want to be sipping is the Smith & Hook 2013 Proprietary Red Blend from California’s Central Coast. Rich with intense dark fruit and smoke notes, it’s the wine equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold winter day.

Smith & Hook Proprietary Red BlendThe wine is a blend of 47% Merlot, 35% Malbec, 10% Petite Sirah and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Paso Robles, Arroyo Seco, San Antonio Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands. It was aged for 26 months in French oak, 60% of which was new.

2013 is the first vintage of the Proprietary Red Blend. Smith & Hook, part of Hahn Family Wines, also produces a Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Proprietary Red Blend opens with aromas of dark red berries, smoked meat and toasted oak. The taste is full, lush and layered with dark red cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla, baking spice, tobacco and leather. It’s velvety smooth in the mouth with well-integrated tannins. The finish is long and satisfying with lingering berry pie.

The wine is a great pairing for hearty winter dishes. Enjoy the Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Blend with beef tenderloin or stew, a savory risotto or braised lamb shank.

A bottle of the Smith & Hook 2013 Proprietary Red Blend costs $25.

14.5% alcohol

Cru Bourgeois

Cru Bourgeois: High Quality Wine from Bordeaux’s Left Bank

With the incredible number of châteaux producing wines in Bordeaux, how do you know how to select a good bottle?

Sure, you can pick one from one of the five growths of the 1855 Classification – a ranking of Bordeaux’s best wines as requested by Emperor Napoleon III for the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris.

However, a lot has changed since 1855. So you may want to opt for something that has kept up with the times (not to mention that is also a lot easier than pulling up the list of classified estates).

When selecting a Bordeaux wine, look for Cru Bourgeois.

Cru Bourgeois logoCru Bourgeois du Médoc wines have met the strict quality selection procedure of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois. This union was created in 1962 to study, defend and promote the interests of the owners and producers in the Médoc area. The term dates back to the 15th century, when the bourgeois (merchants) of Bordeaux were able to acquire the finest properties in the region.

“We use an external and independent verification body – Bureau Veritas – to supervise every stage of the process to ensure quality standards and impartiality at every stage,” explained Crus Bourgeois du Médoc Director Frederique de Lamothe via email.

“Since 2008, each vintage is tasted blind by external professionals and evaluated before being sold, making the ‘Cru Bourgeois’ quality approach unique and a benchmark for Bordeaux and the rest of France.”

Cru Bourgeois wines are easy to spot, thanks to an authentication sticker affixed to each bottle since the 2010 vintage.

Cru Bourgeois sticker

“This sticker not only guarantees quality, but also that the wine is representative of its specific terroir and appellation,” said Mr. de Lamothe. “The sticker also has a QR code that allows easy and immediate access to that particular château’s technical information on the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc website.”

The wines come from the famous sub-appellations on Bordeaux’s Left Bank: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Medoc, Moulis en Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. They’re made mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The wines in the Crus Bourgeois de Medoc offer variety, both in taste and price. Bottles range from $20 to $50, with the average price of a bottle currently at $25.50.

For more information on Crus Bourgeois du Medoc including member châteaux visit www.crus-bourgeois.com.

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

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

Biltmore American Series

The American Series from The Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate is all decked out for the holidays, making it a picturesque time to visit. But if you’re not able to tour the historic home and winery, you can still bring a part of it into your home.

The American Series of wines from the Biltmore Estate are American grown and North Carolina produced. Winemakers source the grapes from top vineyards and growers in California and Washington, then craft the wines at the estate winery in Asheville.

Biltmore American Pinot GrigioThe Biltmore Estate American Pinot Grigio 2013 is light and refreshing with citrus, pear and apple notes and a touch of sweet tangerine. It’s a blend of California (90%) and Washington (10%) grapes, with a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay added to the Pinot Grigio. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks at a low temperature to preserve the fresh fruit characteristics.

Winemakers at the Biltmore Estate suggest pairing the American Pinot Grigio with calamari with creamy lime sauce, scallops wrapped in bacon, crab cakes, chicken, seafood and tuna salads. $12, 13.6% alcohol

Biltmore American Pinot NoirThe Biltmore Estate American Pinot Noir 2012 has the lushness you look for in Pinot with an inviting spiciness from the addition of Syrah. Costing less than $20, it’s a great value. The grapes for this wine came entirely from California. After fermentation the wine spent six to eight months aging in stainless steel tanks, French and American oak barrels. Red cherry, plum and vanilla flavors mingle with white pepper and baking spice.

A versatile wine, the Biltmore Estate American Pinot Noir may be enjoyed with the varied flavors of any holiday meal. Other suggested pairings include salmon, smoked turkey, barbecue and Boursin cheese.
$17, 14.2% alcohol

Biltmore American Cabernet SauvignonThe Biltmore Estate American Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 brings together California, Washington and North Carolina, with 45% of the grapes coming from the estate vineyards in Asheville (46% from California and 9% from Washington). Rounding out the Cabernet Sauvignon is a touch of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Malbec and Pinot Noir. The wine was aged eight to twelve months in French and American oak barrels before it was blended and bottled. Medium in body with soft tannins, the red wine has supple notes of black currant, black cherry, boysenberry, vanilla and rosemary.

Suggested pairings from the Biltmore winemakers include lamb with rosemary, hamburgers and smoked Gouda cheese.
$17, 13.6% alcohol

For more information on the American Series and the other wines from the Biltmore Estate visit biltmorewines.com.

>> Connect:
Facebook: Biltmore
Twitter: @BiltmoreEstate
Instagram: @biltmoreestate

Faust Cabernet Sauvignon

AG Pick: Faust Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

The Faust of legend sold his soul for knowledge and worldly pleasures. Fortunately for us, there is no need to make a deal with the Devil to enjoy the Faust 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

The man behind the California legend is Agustin Huneeus, best known for Quintessa. With a career in wine that has spanned 50 years and 15 countries, Agustin sought the thrill of a new endeavor – to renew his passion, much like Dr. Faust.

Faust Cabernet SauvignonWhereas Quintessa is a reflection of the vineyard, Faust is a reflection of the grape. It’s a tribute to Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, made with grapes from Agustin’s family vineyards in Rutherford and Coombsville. Small lots from nearby appellations round out the blend.

The 2011 wine is 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc. It spent 19 months aging in French oak, of which 30% was new.

Intensely aromatic, the Faust starts off big and bold with notes of juicy red and black fruit, tobacco and spice. Decant it or let it sit in your glass, and the wine will soften into an elegant and complex sip. Blackberry, cassis and ripe red cherry are layered with dark chocolate, black pepper, leather and cigar box. It’s velvety in the mouth, with a lingering spicy finish.

For more information visit www.faustwine.com.

$50, 14.2% alcohol by volume

rose wines

Five Rosé Wines to Enjoy this Summer

The summer of rosé is in full swing! It’s an international love affair, with rosé wine being made around the world from a variety of different grapes.

Try one of these AG picks tonight:

Cune RosadoCune Rosado Rioja 2013
Rioja Alta, Spain

From CVNE (pronounced Coo-nay), a family owned and operated winery founded in 1879 in Haro, Rioja, this dry rosé is 100% Tempranillo. Produced using the saignée or bleeding method, the juice was removed from the grape skins and seeds after around 24 to 48 hours, resulting in a magenta-pink color. Floral aromas introduce flavors of strawberry, tart cherry and red currant.
$14, 14% alcohol by volume

Esporao Defesa RoséEsporão Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2013
Alentejo, Portugal

Established in 1973, Herdade do Esporão is a family-owned estate and winery that takes its name from the tower on the property that is thought to have been built between 1457 and 1490. This rosé is a blend of Aragonez and Syrah. The grapes underwent pneumatic pressing after a short period of skin contact. Bright pink in color with berry aromas, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry and Victoria plum, with a hint of mint on the refreshing finish.
$15, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Bridge Lane RoséBridge Lane Rosé 2013
North Fork of Long Island, New York

This wine comes from Lieb Cellars, founded in 1992 on Long Island’s North Fork. Lieb was the first winery on Long Island to plant Pinot Blanc, which has become their signature wine and makes up part of the blend in the Bridge Lane rosé. The 2013 wine is 63% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Pinot Blanc, 5% Riesling and 3% Gewurztraminer. Light and easy to drink with a pretty pale pink color, the wine has flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petal.
$18, 11.9% alcohol by volume

Cape Bleue RoséJean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2013
Provence, France

The grapes for this wine from the noted French winemaker come from hilly vineyards near Salon de Provence, an area influenced by the nearby Mediterranean Sea.  It is a blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre, and was made using the saignée method. Salmon-pink in color,  the aromatic wine will transport you to the South of France. Flavors of ripe strawberry, red cherry and rose are layered with subtle fennel and white pepper notes.
$14, 12.5% alcohol by volume

Houchart RoséDomaine Houchart Rosé 2013
Provence, France

Bought in 1890 by Aurélien Houchart, the 90 hectare estate near Aix-en-Provence and the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire has been consistently farmed since Roman times. Today it is owned by the Quiot Family and run by Geneviève Quiot, Aurélien’s great granddaughter. This Côtes de Provence rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This crowd-pleaser is pale peachy-pink in color, with delicate flavors of strawberry, loganberry and watermelon that culminate in a crisp finish.
$11, 12% alcohol by volume

 

Earth-Friendly Wines from Chile

Looking for a planet-friendly wine for Earth Day? It’s as easy as a trip to your local grocery store.

Concha y Toro is not just a maker of widely available white and red wines from Chile – they are also committed to sustainable and earth-friendly practices. In December 2013 they were named a “Leading Company in Climate Change Management” by non-profit organization Fundación Chile.

Conchay Toro vineyardAs the second largest winery in the world as measured by vineyard ownership, Concha y Toro realizes the importance of mitigating their environmental impact.

Through water footprint and carbon footprint management Concha y Toro has lessened their use of both. The winery estimates it uses 25% less water to produce a glass of wine than the estimated global average. They also use lighter weight glass bottles that further reduce their carbon usage, which is important as they ship wines to more than 135 countries.

Concha y Toro vineyardsAdditionally, Concha y Toro selected their newest vineyards in areas that can withstand the impact of global climate change. The wines in the Serie Riberas (Riverbank Series) Gran Reserva line benefit from natural elements like elevation and proximity to water, while highlighting unique terroirs in Chile.

Here are a couple of wines to try:

Concha y Toro WinesSerie Riberas Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2012
Part of the Riverbank Series, this wine is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes that come from a vineyard near the Rapel river in Litueche, in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. Aromas of tropical fruits lead to flavors of golden apple, pear, pineapple and vanilla with gentle minerality and a touch of toasted hazelnut on the finish.
$16.99

 

Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
From Chile’s Central Valley, this red wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The name, “cellar of the devil,” comes from a rumor started in the 19th century by founder Don Melchor about the cellar that held his best wines, to dissuade his vineyard workers from entering and sampling them. The medium-bodied wine opens with berry and spice aromas. Flavors of cherry, plum and red and black currant mingle with black pepper and toasted oak. Easy to drink and at a wallet-friendly price, it’s no surprise this is a popular Cabernet Sauvignon.
$10.99

Earth Day may only come once a year, but the wines of Concha y Toro can be enjoyed all year round.

For more on Concha y Toro visit www.conchaytoro.com.

vineyard photos courtesy Concha y Toro

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Cultivate Wines: Socially Responsible Sipping

Sharing a bottle of wine has long been a social activity. The team at Cultivate Wines believes it should be a socially responsible activity as well.

Cultivate WinesCultivate’s founders Ali and Charles Banks believe that with this mission, for-profit companies have the potential to impact the world. For every dollar in sales, Cultivate gives ten cents back to local communities. Since its launch in 2011, Cultivate has donated more than $400,000 to charities that help fund opportunity and hope.

The Banks have decades of experience in find wine — as the former owners of Screaming Eagle and owners of Terroir Selections, whose profile includes Sandhi, Mayacamas, Mulderbosch and Leviathan.

While the wines for Cultivate come from all over the globe, they share qualities that make them approachable and easy to drink. Director of Winemaking Nat Gunter searches for vineyard sites and growers with unique stories or personalities. The winemaking team tastes thousands of juice samples to ensure quality and variety.

Cultivate WinesFor an introduction to Cultivate Wines, the Amateur Gastronomer suggests the Dream Walking 2010 Chardonnay or the Copa Cabana 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère.

The Dream Walking Chardonnay comes from Mendocino and Santa Rita Hills in California. It’s a classic California Chardonnay, with aromas of apple and tropical fruits introducing a palate of Meyer lemon, pineapple, golden apple, chamomile and marzipan. The wine is smooth and round in the mouth, with lingering notes of citrus and sweet almond.

The Copa Cabana is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenère and 10% Syrah from Curicó in Chile’s Central Valley. It’s a ripe and juicy red, with a crowd-pleasing mix of fruit and spice. Flavors of boysenberry, blackcurrant, plum and blackberry jam mingle with black pepper, clove and leather. Smooth tannins give the wine a nice texture and finish.

Cultivate Wines are wallet-friendly too. The Dream Walking Chardonnay costs $18, and the Copa Cabana costs $12.

For more information on Cultivate Wines visit www.cultivatewines.com.

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