Tag Archives: Merlot

Brazil Wine

A Taste of Wine From Brazil

The most exciting sparkling wine I have tasted recently is from Brazil. It’s the Casa Valduga 130 Limited Edition, and I discovered it an exclusive event promoting Brazilian wine in Atlanta.

The sparkling wine is similar to Champagne as it is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and gets its bubbles via the traditional method. It has lovely creamy and toasty notes with flavors of lemon, dried apricot and almond. Elegant with small and lively bubbles, the Casa Valduga 130 is an excellent introduction to the wines of Brazil.

Casa Valduga was one of five Brazilian wineries showcasing their wines at the event put on by Wines of Brasil in partnership with the Brazilian embassy and consulate. The food at Fogo de Chão provided the perfect pairings. Atlanta was the second city on the tour, which included Miami, Washington, D.C. and New York.

The Wines of Brasil event started appropriately with bubbles. As I found out, Brazilians love sparkling wine and drink a lot of it.

Of course Brazil is better known for its Cachaça, but their wine is gaining momentum outside the country. Brazil is the 6th largest wine producer in the Southern Hemisphere, with 750 wineries and 79,000 hectares of vineyards. Brazil’s six main wine regions are in the south of the country, which is on the same parallel as South Africa.

Though the main grapes are generally French varieties – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Tannat, Chardonnay, Muscat and Riesling – the winemaking owes much to Italian tradition. All five of the wineries at the Atlanta event were founded by Italian immigrants or their descendants.

The United States can expect to see more Brazilian wine, as exports have greatly increased in the past year. Here are Brazilian wineries and wines to look for:

Casa Valduga

Founded in 1875, when Luiz Valduga arrived from northern Italy, Casa Valduga is still family-run today. It is a popular spot to visit in Brazil, welcoming more than 200,000 visitors per year. In addition to the winery there are guest houses and a restaurant. Casa Valduga is the official wine of the Brazilian Government.

Besides the 130 Limited Edition sparkling wine, Casa Valduga produces a brut and brut rosé. I also enjoyed the Casa Valduga Cabernet Franc. By the way, the Casa Valduga 130 costs approximately $34.99, which is a great value for its taste and quality.
www.casavalduga.com.br

Vinicola Salton

The third generation of the Salton family runs this winery, which was founded in 1910 by six brothers. Their father, Antonio Domenico Salton, arrived in Brazil from Veneto in northern Italy in 1878.

Salton is the largest producer of sparkling wine in Brazil. The Brut and Intenso Moscato were featured at the tasting event, as were two reds: a Tannat and a Burgundian-style Pinot Noir.
www.salton.com.br

Casa Perini

Casa Perini was founded in 1970, though the Perini family has been growing grapes and producing wines in Brazil since 1929. The first generation of the Perini Family arrived from Italy in 1876.

The wines range from the fun and easy-drinking Macaw line to the sophisticated Quatro, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Ancellotta and Tannat.
www.casaperini.com.br

Miolo

The Miolo Wine Group traces its roots of wine production in Brazil to 1897. After decades of growing grapes, the company decided to produce its own wine in 1990. In 2003 they brought on Michel Rolland as consulting winemaker.

With the combination of skilled grape growing and French expertise, Miolo wines are delicious examples of the fine wine being made in Brazil. The Lote 43, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was one of my favorites at the tasting.
www.miolo.com.br

Mioranza

Mioranza was founded in 1964 by four Italian brothers who were the second generation of the Mioranza family in Brazil. The winery is mainly a negociant; 90% of the grapes come from small producers, and 10% come from their vineyards.

RioBravo is a line of sparkling wines, offering dry, semi-sweet and sweet styles. Under the bright Mioranza label there are whites and reds that also range from dry to sweet.
www.mioranza.com

To learn more about wine from Brazil visit the Wines of Brasil website at winesofbrasil.com.

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

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.

Continue reading

Collazzi Liberta Toscana

AG Pick: Libertà dei Collazzi Toscana IGT 2012

Somehow Tuscany is both approachable and intimidating. Approachable because it’s one of the best known wine regions in Italy, thanks to Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, “Super Tuscans” and an extremely photogenic landscape. Intimidating because of the number of wines produced and labels that may need deciphering to figure out what you’re drinking.

Today we’re sharing a Tuscan wine that doesn’t need an advanced sommelier degree to enjoy.

Collazzi Liberta Toscana 2012The Libertà Toscana IGT 2012 comes from the Collazzi estate just south of Florence in the heart of the Chianti Classico. Designated as IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica – this wine may be considered a Super Tuscan as it is made with non-native grapes and a small portion of Sangiovese (and thereby does not meet the stricter requirements for a DOC or DOCG designation).

Libertà means freedom, and is a reference to the Collazzi coat-of-arms. It is a blend of 55% Merlot, 30% Syrah and 15% Sangiovese. The grapes were hand harvested and the wine spent 10 months aging partly in oak barrels.

The wine opens with spiced red fruit aromas. Flavors of cherry and red currant mingle with cedar, nutmeg and balsamic. There is a hint of sun-baked tomatoes that calls to mind images of sun drenched Tuscan vineyards. Round tannins and a smooth, lingering finish make this a crowd-pleasing wine to sip with friends.

For more information on the wines of Collazzi visit collazziusa.com.

$24, 14% alcohol by volume

>> Connect:
Facebook: CollazziUSA
Twitter: @CollazziUSA

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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

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

 

It’s Time for Wine: 1949 Cheval Blanc in a 2013 World

By Monty Preiser

If you were asked to design the quintessential retail shop for the true oenophile, you would be hard pressed to do a better job than simply copy Andrew Lampasone’s Wine Watch in Ft. Lauderdale. Not a millimeter of wasted space, scores of vintages and thousands of wines from around the world, a designated area where a loyal clientele gathers to share wines they bring and ones Andy opens from his own stock, and a proprietor (Andy) who is both expert in wines on a global scale, and perfect in his knowledge of where each bottle is in his own place. In fact, such a legend has this establishment become that few vintners or sales people get to south Florida without making a stop.

Yet Andy takes it all a step further by offering almost weekly tastings of rare and/or outstanding wines. Whether it be Cult Cab night, Madeira night, or a simpler dinner featuring the current releases of a top winery, something is always going on. if you live in or visit the Lauderdale area, you should certainly be on his mailing list.

Chateau Cheval BlancI (that’s why the column is in the singular – Sara could not attend), along with 15 other tasters, cozily sidled into Wine Watch’s back room for a vertical of “Miles’ favorite wine,” the Chateau Cheval Blanc St. Emilion. As you probably know, the blend of this wine is close to 2/3 Cabernet Franc and 1/3 Merlot each year, and the winemaker gives credit for its longevity to the Cab Franc. For me, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about as I had never tried it. For everyone else (the majority, interestingly, were doctors) old Bordeaux samplings seemed to be almost passé.

The lineup of wines did indeed seem staggering. Robert Parker’s 100 point (if you put much stock in that sort of thing) 1949; Bordeaux Book’s 95 point 1953 (half bottle); Wine Spectator’s 96 point 1982; Wine Spectator’s 92 point 1985; Bordeaux Book’s 89 point 1986; Parker’s 98+ point 1990; Wine Spectator’s 91 point 1996; and Parker’s 93 point 1999. To give you an example of the value of these wines, the 1990 was released at $250.00/bottle and Andy had it marked at $1,175.00. Winesearcher shows about 8 shops worldwide carrying the 1949, with prices ranging from $1,500.00/bottle in Northamptonshire, U.K. to $3,500.00 per bottle in Centre, France.

Chateau Cheval Blanc[As an aside, there is an interesting story reported by Elin McCoy in her book The Emperor of Wine: the Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and the Reign of American Taste. It seems that Jacques Hebrard, the then manager of Cheval Blanc, was less than pleased with Mr. Parker’s 1981 barrel sample rating of his wine. Mr. Hebrard asked for a re-taste. When Parker arrived he was attacked by Hebrard’s dog while the manager simply stood aside. When Parker asked for a bandage to stop his leg from bleeding (Hebrard denies that it was), Parker says Hebrard instead gave him a copy of the offending review. Apparently Parker isn’t one to hold a grudge as he did re-taste the wine, found it markedly different, and updated his evaluation.]

There is no denying that my palate runs toward California style wines. I have, however, tasted most of the great reputation wines from Bordeaux, many of them old vintages as well – and many selling for $500/bottle and above. And of course over the years I have sampled scores of younger wines with more modest prices. Nothing has changed my opinion that (as prize fighters are described) pound for pound and ounce for ounce France can no longer compete with California.

vineyards in St. EmilionThus, the most interesting part of my night was the question of what, if anything, we were really learning by tasting this vertical. Or was this perhaps just a fun exercise? The Francophiles in the room (almost everyone else) were enthralled by this opportunity and, to a person, they agreed the importance of the experience was to see how the Cheval Blanc aged. They concluded that since the 1949 and 1953 were still so beautiful, all the newer wines would age in the same or similar manner.

While I agreed that the 1949 and 1953 were exquisite (in fact, the 49 is on the list of the best wines I have ever tasted), I disagreed with the final opinion expressed above by the vast majority. To me, and I think it is borne out by logic, tasting an older Bordeaux from a particular winery has minimal bearing on how well most younger wines from that same winery will age. In that region of France it is all about vintage. In other words, wines from most Chateaux will age wonderfully in a good vintage year, and, conversely, will age poorly when the year’s weather and/or other conditions have been problematic. Thus, winery x’s great 1979 does not accurately predict how winery x’s 2012 will age.

Contrast that with California, where, except for an aberration like 2011, the weather is consistent and vintages are so similar that it is often hard to distinguish one from another unless they are tasted side by side. It is only under these conditions, I argued, that one can tell how a 2012 wine from winery y is actually going to age by tasting older winery y vintages.

I wish I could say that my position sparked a heated and collegial debate, but most in the room held the prevailing opinion otherwise and apparently saw no advantage to commenting on my observations. Not surprising, really, but this belief was actually and inadvertently contradicted by one of the doctors who had generously supplied the wines for the evening at a low cost. He pointed out the Bordeaux wines he cellared were all excellent because, “I don’t buy bad vintages.” This is really a tacit admission that in Bordeaux, at least, it is in fact all about vintage, which, I hasten to point out here, was, and is, my point exactly.

With that background, I can report that the 1949, 1953, and 1985 vintages were indeed magnificent. In fact, we all chose our two favorites and but for a few hands raised in favor of the 1990, the three named above took all the votes. And while I thought its still aromatic and fragrant nose coupled with spices, wood, and black fruit put the 49 out front, the smooth and aromatically brilliant 1953 was the choice of the group.

As to all the others? I thought they were marginally OK. The 1999 seems to bring $315 – $440/ bottle and the 1986 $330 – $530. You would not find me spending anywhere near that much. Most were too thin for my liking, and, as validated by the entire group, less enticing than the big four (’49, ’53, ’85, and ’90).

We concluded with a gift from one of the docs, a 1992 Chateau d’Yquem. Not bad. In fact, everything about the evening, including the erudite company, was lovely in all respects. Andrew, keep up the good work.

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It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com. Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley and Sonoma, the most comprehensive guides to wineries and restaurants in Napa and Sonoma. Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.

Wallet-Friendly Red Wines for Fall

Looking for a new great value wine to try this fall? Try one of these three reds:

Esporao Monte Velho RedHerdade do Esporão Monte Velho Red 2012

Portugal

Set a place at the dinner table for this medium bodied, food-friendly wine from the Alentejo region of Portugal. The wine is a blend of indigenous grapes Aragonês (40%) and Trincadeira (35%) along with Touriga Nacional (20%) and Syrah (5%). Vibrant berry aromas introduce flavors of cherry, raspberry, and cassis. The fruit is layered with white pepper, clove and subtle toasted oak. If you’re not familiar with the wines of Portugal, Esporão offers an excellent introduction.

$10, 14% alcohol by volume

Rib Shack RedRib Shack Red 2012

South Africa

With its smoky and earthy flavors, this wine from the Western Cape in South Africa is the perfect pairing for barbecues and tailgates. The wine from Douglas Green is 60% Pinotage and 40% Shiraz. Intense tobacco, leather and wood smoke aromas and flavors are supported nicely by black cherry, boysenberry and plum. Silky tannins give the wine a smooth mouthfeel, and the finish is satisfying with lingering dark berry and mocha.

$10, 13% alcohol by volume

Dead Bolt Winemaker's BlendDead Bolt Winemaker’s Red Blend 2011

California

Juicy and jammy, this wine can warm you up as the temperature drops. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah and Shiraz from California by Australian winemaker Philip Laffer. Black plum, baked cherries and sweet tannins make for a bold first impression. This is followed by a silky finish that has a touch of nutmeg. From the flashy label to the full flavor, this wine is anything but shy.

$14, 13% alcohol by volume

 

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