Tag Archives: French oak

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

Vinkara wine

Vinkara Wines: Indigenous Grapes from Turkey

Love Old World wines and looking for something new? Try the wines from Vinkara Winery in Turkey, a place where winemaking started some 15,000 years ago.

Vinkara is a leader in the production of indigenous Anatolian grape varietals. They are now introducing their wines to the United States.

Vinkara Winery is located in Kalecik, in the Ankara Province in north-central Turkey. The village gives its name to Kalecik Karasi, a red wine grape that originated there.

Vinkara Narince Reserve 2012Vinkara’s 135 acres of vineyards are planted at an altitude of 2,000 feet, and are influenced by a continental climate with cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. The grapes for all their wines are harvested by hand, and grow in a mix of sand, clay and limestone soils with high mineral content.

I had a chance to taste two of Vinkara’s wines – the Narince Reserve 2012 and the Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012.

Narince, pronounced nah-rin-djeh and meaning ‘delicately’ in Turkish, is a white wine grape. The 2012 Narince Reserve is a dry white wine that is reminiscent of Chardonnay or a fuller boded Sauvignon Blanc. It opens with citrus, tropical and floral aromas. On the palate are flavors of pear, grapefruit, pineapple and white flowers, with a touch of vanilla and well-balanced acidity. $25, 13.5% abv

Vinkara Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012The Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012, pronounced kah-le-djic car-ah-ser (with ‘er’ as in ‘father’), immediately brought to mind a spicy Pinot Noir or Gamay. This dry red wine is medium-bodied with aromas of red fruits, spice and smoke. Plum, red cherry and blackberry flavors are layered with black pepper, nutmeg and subtle notes of smoked meat. Smooth tannins and a lingering finish make it a really pleasing sip. The wine was aged for 14 months in French oak barrels.
$27, 13.5% abv

Though the wine producing region may be unfamiliar and the names may be a bit awkward to pronounce, all you need to know is that the wines of Vinkara are easy to drink and approachable, and well worth seeking out.

For more information on Vinkara Winery visit www.vinkarawines.com.

Vinkara wines are imported by The Winebow Group.

>> Connect:
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Twitter: @vinkarawines
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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.

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AG Pick: Septima Malbec 2012

After paying tribute to Cahors, France, the birthplace of Malbec, it’s time to return to South America. The 2012 Septima Malbec is a great example of how well this red wine grape does in Argentina.

Bodega Septima was founded in 1999 as the seventh (septima in Spanish) winery from the Codorníu-Raventós family of Spain. The winery is located in Luján de Cuyo in the Mendoza region. The vines are planted at an altitude of 3,400 feet above sea level in deep sandy loam soils, and benefit from natural irrigation from the melting snow on the Andes Mountains. Hot days and cool nights are ideal for developing the flavors and maintaining acidity in the Malbec grapes.

Septima MalbecThe 2012 vintage is 100% Malbec. Half of the grapes came from Luján de Cuyo, and the other half came from the stony soils of the Eugenio Bustos district in the Uco Valley. Grapes were harvested by hand, and the wine was aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels.

The wine is deep purple red in color, almost black. Intense aromas of blackberries, cassis, plum and black pepper draw you in. The black fruit notes develop and expand on the palate, giving way to earthy leather, wood smoke and spice. Well integrated tannins give the wine a lush and velvety mouthfeel.

With any Malbec from Bodega Septima you get quality and consistency, and a great price. A bottle of the 2012 Septima Malbec costs $10.99.

For more information on the wines from Bodega Septima visit www.bodegaseptima.com.

14% alcohol

Related: Cahors Malbec and the South America Connection

Chateau de Cayx

Guide to Cahors Wineries

Here is your go-to guide on Cahors Malbec.

For a taste that will make you fall in love with Cahors Malbec try wines from these domaines and châteaux.

The wines from each estate are generally listed beginning with entry level (easy to drink, less oak and aging, lower price point) to top of the line (excellent quality, complex, cellar-worthy, higher price point). Vine age is the average age.

Click here to learn about why the location of the vineyards — on the terraces or plateau — is so important to Cahors Malbec.

Scroll down to the bottom for a map of the wineries.

Château du Cèdre

Owned by brothers Pascal and Jean-Marc Verhaeghe who took over the vineyard from their father in 1987, Château du Cèdre produces exceptional Malbec in Vire-sur-Lot. For that “aha! moment” – when you take a sip and understand what makes Cahors Malbec so special and delicious – try the 2011 Le Cedre. In 2003 the Verhaeghe brothers transitioned to organic farming and were awarded official certification in 2009.

Chateau du Cedre wines

Location and soil: Third terrace; clay and limestone soils.

Website: www.chateauducedre.com

Wines to try:
Cèdre Heritage 2011
100% Malbec from 30 year-old vines, 18 months on the lees in tanks.

Château du Cèdre 2011
90% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 5% Tanat from 30 year-old vines. 22 months in oak barrels: 1/3 new, 1/3 one year-old, 1/3 two years old.

Le Cèdre 2011
100% Malbec from 40 year-old vines. Hand harvested. 24 months in barrel, 80% new.

GC 2011
100% Malbec from 55 year-old vines. Hand harvested. Fermentation and 27 months aging in new oak barrels.

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Clos Triguedina

A Visit to Clos Triguedina

When you arrive for a visit at Clos Triguedina, one of the first things you will likely say is “I would like to taste something.” It is a sentiment that has been expressed there countless times over many centuries.

Cahors and Clos Triguedina are located along the Pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostela. In the Middle Ages, pilgrims would find a welcoming place for food and rest at the estate in Vire-sur-Lot. In the Occitan language they would say, “I am longing to dine” – “me trigo de dina.”

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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:
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Twitter: @BiltmoreEstate
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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

Grey Single Block Pinot Noir 2012 #vinogram

Grey Pinot NoirGrey Single Block Pinot Noir 2012, from Las Terrazas vineyard in Chile’s Leyda Valley. 100% Pinot Noir. 12 months in French oak (15% new). Soft & silky with notes of black cherry, plum, blueberry. Balanced acidity, rounded tannins. Pair with fish, pasta, soup & cheese. $23.99 #vinogram #agpick #wine #Chile

More information: www.ventisquero.com

Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc

Standout Sauvignon Blanc from California

Made famous by France and today grown all over the world, Sauvignon Blanc is a favorite among white wine drinkers. But you don’t need to go international to find a world class Sauvignon Blanc – just look to California.

Here are the Amateur Gastronomer’s picks for standout Sauvignon Blanc from California.

If the warm weather isn’t reason enough to try these wines, pick up a bottle for International Sauvignon Blanc Day, on Friday May 16th. Share what you’re sipping with us @amgastronomer on Twitter and Instagram with #SauvBlanc.

Arkenstone NVD Sauvignon Blanc 2012

There’s a new Sauvignon Blanc from Arkenstone Vineyards. The Howell Mountain winery has expanded beyond its estate vines on the western shoulder to include grapes in the larger Napa Valley AVA.

Arkenstone NVD Sauvignon BlancWinemaker Sam Kaplan uses similar techniques with the Napa Valley District Sauvignon Blanc as he does with the Estate wine to add complementary rounded and creamy notes to the fruit and floral flavors.

The 2012 Arkenstone NVD is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. After fermentation the wine spent 11 months on the lees in a combination of new and used French oak and concrete.

Enticing aromas of green apple, pineapple, kiwi and white flowers invite you to take a sip. The taste is sophisticated with layered pear, white peach, mango, honeydew and jasmine. It’s soft in the mouth, with good acidity and wet stone minerality adding freshness. The finish is long with lingering apple and peach notes. Look for the official release of the 2012 Arkenstone NVD Sauvignon Blanc in July.

$45, 14.5% alcohol, arkenstone.com
335 West Lane, Angwin, California
707.965.1020

Bernardus Griva Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Just a short drive from the world-famous destinations of Pebble Beach, Monterey Bay Aquarium and picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea is the Bernardus Lodge and Winery. Owner Bernardus (Ben) Pon selected the location with the dream to make a red wine in the Carmel Valley equal to the finest from Bordeaux.

Bernardus Griva Sauvignon BlancA standout in its own right is the winery’s take on white Bordeaux. As is common in Bordeaux, Bernardus’ Sauvignon Blanc has a small percent of Semillon added to the final blend.

The grapes for this white wine come from Griva Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA, just south of Santa Lucia Highlands in the Salinas Valley. The Sauvignon Blanc was hand picked and fermented in stainless steel at cool temperatures using three specially selected yeasts. The finished wine has 5% barrel fermented Semillon, added to enhance its richness and complexity.

Wonderfully aromatic with tropical fruit and citrus, the Bernardus Griva Sauvignon Blanc has flavors of white apricot, passion fruit, grapefruit and lime zest with subtle grassy notes on the crisp finish. Refreshing acidity gives the wine a lively mouthfeel, with gentle minerality adding structure.

$22, 13.7% alcohol, bernardus.com
5 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley, California
831.298.8021

Galerie Equitem 2012

The debut vintage of Equitem and the newly launched Galerie series is an exciting introduction to winemaker Laura Díaz Muñoz, who brings together European techniques and traditions with New World fruit. Her education and Galerie Equitemwinemaking career began in Spain, with stops in New Zealand and Chile before arriving in Napa and working alongside acclaimed Cardinale winemaker Chris Carpenter.

Equitem, meaning “knight” in Latin, is made entirely of Sauvignon Blanc from Knights Valley in Sonoma. The wine was aged on the lees, half in neutral French oak barrels and half in stainless steel tanks. It was stirred three times per week in barrel and two times per week in tank to enhance the mouthfeel of the finished wine.

Showcasing an artistry both inside and outside the bottle, the Equitem Sauvignon Blanc is nuanced and elegant with slate minerality and lively acidity. Golden apple, pear, white peach and guava mingle with white flowers, meringue and subtle vanilla, culminating in a crisp citrus finish.

You’ll also want to try sister wine Naissance, Galerie’s Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley.

$30, 14.3% alcohol, galeriewines.com
P.O. Box 328, Oakville, California

866.715.1993

Round Pond Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2013

How do you make your Sauvignon Blanc stand out in a region that is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon? You focus on the purity of fruit and make the wine as Round Pond Sauvignon Blancclean as possible to highlight the quality of the vineyard. That’s according to Round Pond managing partner Miles MacDonnell, whose family has owned the farm, winery and olive mill since 1983.

Working with winemaker Muiris Griffin, the MacDonnells aim to produce a more classic expression of Sauvignon Blanc that is stylistically closer to Graves in Bordeaux. After a near perfect growing season in 2013, the grapes were hand harvested, whole-cluster pressed and fermented entirely in stainless steel. No malolactic fermentation was allowed to occur.

Crisp and refreshing are words that immediately come to mind. Aromas of lemon, golden pear and just ripened peach expand on the palate along with bright flavors of white grapefruit, melon, starfruit, lime and a hint of lemongrass.

$24, 14.5% alcohol, roundpond.com
875 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, California
707.302.2575

Séamus Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013

You can’t beat sipping a chilled Sauvignon Blanc outdoors on a hot afternoon in the South – one of the reasons owner and winemaker James Foley Jr. was inspired to make it. Working with his father James Sr. in Marietta, Georgia, James Jr. divides his time between his home in Savannah and winemaking facility in San Francisco.

Seamus Sauv BlancSéamus (the Gaelic equivalent of “James”) focuses on premium, handcrafted wines from California, sourcing grapes from top appellations. The grapes for the Sauvignon Blanc come from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma.

“I try to stick to the traditional European style but I don’t want to hide the opulence of new world fruit,” says Foley Jr., who used a slow fermentation technique in stainless steel to preserve the tropical fruit characteristics.

Apple and citrus aromas introduce flavors of green apple, honeydew, mango and pineapple. The wine is well balanced with refreshing acidity, and ends with a deliciously crisp and dry finish.

When you pick up a bottle of the Séamus Sauvignon Blanc you’ll notice a tribute to home – the label is an image of the live oaks that line the entrance to Wormsloe Plantation in Savannah.

$29, 14.4% alcohol, seamuswines.com
2455 3rd Street, San Francisco, California
415.939.1735

For information on purchasing the wines visit their websites, and look for the wines at wine shops and restaurants.

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