Tag Archives: red wine

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.

Vintners Reception

What to Taste at the 2017 High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction

Top winemakers and wineries from California and beyond will be in Atlanta March 22nd through 25th for the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Celebrating its 25th year, the auction has raised more than $26 million for the High Museum.

Earlier: High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction Returns for 25th Edition

Whether it’s your first High Museum Wine Auction or you’re a regular, here are the wines you won’t want to miss at Saturday’s Vintners’ Reception. Bonus if you love Pinot Noir.

Au Bon Climat

Jim Clendenen at the 2016 wine auction
Jim Clendenen at the 2016 wine auction

Owner and winemaker Jim Clendenen is one of this year’s guests of honor. It is well deserved – beyond making delicious wines, Jim is a familiar face at the wine auction and always has entertaining stories. In addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Jim brings fun and unique wines for guests to sample. Au Bon Climat is based in Santa Barbara County, in California’s Central Coast.
aubonclimat.com

Kosta Browne

Co-founders Michael Browne and Dan Kosta round out this year’s guests of honor. If you’re a fan of Pinot Noir you’ve no doubt enjoyed one from Kosta Browne. If you haven’t tasted these wines from Sonoma, you must make them one of your first stops.
kostabrowne.com

Single vineyard Pinot Noir at Bernardus Winery's tasting room
Single vineyard Pinot Noir at Bernardus Winery’s tasting room

Bernardus Winery

Start with the Sauvignon Blanc from this Carmel Valley, California winery and you won’t be disappointed. Bernardus was founded by Bernardus “Ben” Pon, who is from the Netherlands (you’ll notice orange in the logo). Marinus, a Bordeaux-style blend, is a must-taste. Bernardus also makes single vineyard Pinot Noirs that when sipped side-by-side offer a glimpse at the different terroir. After the wine auction you’ll want to plan a trip to the tasting room in Carmel Valley Village.
bernardus.com

Big Basin wine

Big Basin Vineyards

In the charming town of Saratoga, on the edge of Silicon Valley, is where I first discovered Big Basin Vineyards. Their small and unassuming tasting room doesn’t prepare you for the big and bold flavors of their red wine – Pinot Noir, Syrah and Rhone blends. Big Basin’s vineyards are located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Wine auction guests got their first taste of Big Basin at last year’s event; this year owner and winemaker Bradley Brown will be offering tastes of current releases. Big Basin also makes Chardonnay and white wines from Rhone grapes. I’m a big fan of their Roussanne.
bigbasinvineyards.com

Continuum Estate's vineyards on Prichard Hill
Continuum Estate’s vineyards on Prichard Hill

Continuum Estate

Continuum made a big splash at the wine auction in 2014, when father and daughter Tim and Carissa Mondavi were guests of honor. Continuum’s vineyards are located on Pritchard Hill on the east side of Napa Valley, a stunning location if you have the chance to visit. Each year Continuum produces one wine, made from the estate’s best grapes, that truly captures a sense of place and the characteristics of that vintage. More recently they introduced Novicium, a second wine made primarily with grapes from younger vines. Continuum is a prized wine that all aficionados should have in their cellar.
continuumestate.com

Domaine Della

Domaine Della

A favorite discovery from last year’s wine auction, Domaine Della returns for its second year. Owner and winemaker David Hejl named the winery for his mother, who as he will tell you, was a truly remarkable woman. David’s experience crafting high quality Pinot Noir shows in each bottle of his wine. It’s hard to pick a favorite between his Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Be sure to join Domaine Della’s list for a chance to buy wine during the spring and fall releases.
domainedella.com

Lando Wines

Sam and Jennifer Lando at the 2016 wine auction
Sam & Jennifer Lando at the 2016 wine auction

Sam Lando is the kind of guy who you want to have a beer – or in this case, glass of wine with. Besides being engaging and entertaining, Sam is extremely knowledgeable about Pinot Noir, having worked with Kosta Browne winery. He’s another wine auction regular, and his table is always a popular spot. Lando makes flavorful and balanced Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.
landowines.com

Patel wines

Patel Winery

If full-bodied Napa Cabernet is your favorite, you must seek out Raj Patel of Patel Winery. As I wrote in 2015, “when Robert Parker awards your first wine a 95, you know you’ve made something special.” Patel wines are lush, layered and elegant, thanks to having access to some of the best grapes and the expertise of Luc Morlet, one of Napa’s top winemakers. Last year Raj debuted a Malbec, a deliciously spicy wine. This year he’ll be offering tastes of his 2014 Napa Valley Malbec, Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon and Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon.
patelwinery.com

Winderlea Pinot Noir

Winderlea Vineyard and Winery

You could spend the entire Vintners’ Reception enjoying California Pinot Noir but be sure not to miss these Oregon Pinots. The name Winderlea evokes images of the breeze gently blowing through the vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Founders Bill Sweat and Donna Morris made their wine auction debut last year, offering tastes of their Chardonnay and single vineyard Pinot Noirs. I can’t wait to taste what they’ll have this year.
winderlea.com

Of course, you can’t go wrong with Champagne. This year Champagne Billecart-Salmon will be offering tastes of its bubbly. I’d suggest starting there, then moving on to the wineries featured above.

The Vintners’ Reception at the 25th annual High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction will be held on Saturday, March 25th at 11 a.m., followed by the Live Auction. Located under the tents at the Green Lot at Turner Field.
atlanta-wineauction.org

Click to see earlier articles on the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction

Federalist Dueling Pistols

AG Pick: The Federalist Dueling Pistols 2014

How does a Syrah, Zinfandel, red blend from the West Coast
Taste when you raise it for a toast?

I’ve had the hit musical Hamilton on the brain for months and I couldn’t help but think about the opening number when I was pouring a glass of The Federalist Dueling Pistols.

The name of the wine was inspired by the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The 2014 vintage is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma.

Federalist Dueling PistolsDueling Pistols is the latest wine from The Federalist, a series of wines that honor America’s Founding Fathers and their ideals.

It’s a great concept for a California red wine blend. Zinfandel, a proudly American grape (and definitely the Hamilton in this duel), faces off with Syrah, a grape that can be on its own or in blends, but is typically blended with Rhone varieties including Grenache and Mourvedre.

The Syrah and Zinfandel grapes for Dueling Pistols were separately fermented. After blending, the wine spent 15 months in 20% new American and Hungarian oak barrels. American oak was used to add sweeter notes, Hungarian to add spice.

Fortunately for us, this duel has a happy outcome – a rich and robust wine that’s enjoyable to drink.

Dark purple in color as you would expect with these two grapes, The Federalist Dueling Pistols has spicy berry and smoky aromas. The taste is bold with flavors of black cherry, ripe plum and blackberry rounded out with black pepper, root beer and a touch of smoked meat. Smooth tannins and good acidity give the wine a supple mouthfeel.

Pair the Federalist Dueling Pistols with roasted chicken or turkey, or red meat. Fittingly, it’s perfect at an all-American barbecue.

The only duel you might find yourself in is fighting over the last sip.

A bottle of The Federalist 2014 Dueling Pistols costs $29.

The Federalist wines are produced by Terlato Wines. Dueling Pistols is not associated with Hamilton: An American Musical.

14.5% alcohol

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

Salta wines

Colomé and Amalaya: Wines from Salta, Argentina

There is more to Argentina’s wine than just Mendoza. You’re missing out if you don’t venture beyond the country’s best-known region.

Today we’re focusing on Salta. This region is located in the north of Argentina and is characterized by its mountainous terrain. Here you’ll find some of the highest elevation vineyards in the world.

For a taste of Salta, try wines from Colomé and Amalaya. These wineries are located in the Calchaqui Valley, at elevations of more than 5,000 feet above sea level. The vineyards benefit from intense sun during the day and cool nights, ideal growing conditions.

Amalaya wines

The natural place to start is with Torrontes, the signature white wine grape of Argentina. This grape produces aromatic, dry wines with lovely floral notes.

Colome Torrontes & MalbecThe 2015 Colomé Torrontes is made entirely from Torrontes. The wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel to preserve its bright, fresh characteristics. This is a wonderfully fragrant wine, like taking a sniff from a bouquet of flowers. Gardenia, orange blossom and jasmine mix with slightly sweet citrus, with good acidity adding balance. $15, 13.5% alcohol

I first enjoyed Amalaya wines when I was in Buenos Aires and I’m so glad they’re available in the United States. The 2015 Amalaya Blanco is a blend of 85% Torrontes and 15% Riesling, two grapes that nicely complement each other. Just as with the Colomé Torrontes, the aim is to showcase the true nature of the grapes — controlled, cool temperatures during winemaking and stainless steel aging make the finished wine fresh and fruity.

The floral nose of the Amalaya Blanco introduces a palate of white flowers, jasmine, white grapefruit and lemon peel with a layer of minerality. Gentle acidity gives crispness, and the finish is clean with a touch of orange blossom honey. $12, 13% alcohol

Colome wines

Moving on to the reds, the 2013 Colomé Estate Malbec comes from four estate vineyards at varying elevations: La Brava Vineyard at 5,740 feet; Colomé Vineyard at 7,545 feet; El Arenal Vineyard at 8,530 feet; and Altura Maxima at the almost unbelievable elevation of 10,207 feet above sea level. The blend of Malbec grapes produces a wine that is bold yet elegant, with red and black fruit notes and firm tannins. Juicy dark red cherry and blackberry flavors are supported by an earthy backbone and a touch of black pepper and cedar. $25, 14.5% alcohol

Amalaya Blanco & MalbecThe 2015 Amalaya Malbec is a blend of 85% Malbec, 10% Tannat and 5% Syrah. The three were fermented and aged separately, and blended just before bottling. One quarter of the wine was aged in one year-old French oak barrels for 10 months.

The fruit flavors in the Amalaya Malbec come through first – raspberry, ripe red cherry, plum and a touch of blueberry. Then come the spice and earth notes, with black pepper, cigar box and violet. Though the wine has a lot going on it’s not one that you need to overthink. The Amalaya Malbec is the kind of wine you can enjoy any night of the week, no fancy meal required. $16, 13.9% alcohol

Colomé and Amalaya are part of the Hess Family Wine Estates portfolio. For more information  www.hess-family.com.

Vinogram: Bottle Jack Winery

For more information on Bottle Jack Wines from Santa Cruz, California visit bottlejackwines.com.

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.

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:
Facebook: vinkara.wines
Twitter: @vinkarawines
Instagram: @vinkarawines

Vinogram: Anaba Pinot Noir 2013

For more information visit anabawines.com.

AG Pick: Loveblock Pinot Noir 2012

Celebrate love this Valentine’s Day and beyond with a bottle of the 2012 Loveblock Pinot Noir. This red wine comes from Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand. It’s a region known for high quality Pinot Noir, and Loveblock is just that.

Loveblock Pinot NoirThe winery was founded by Erica and Kim Crawford. Kim, Loveblock’s winemaker, is probably best known for the wines that carry his name, though he is no longer involved with the brand.

As the floral label would indicate, Loveblock is an aromatic Pinot Noir. Red fruit and violet aromas are further expressed on the palate. Cherry, raspberry and ripe strawberry flavors mix with white pepper and sage. The finish has a subtle note of dried mushroom.

The Loveblock Pinot Noir is light to medium in body, with a silky texture. It pairs well with a variety of foods so enjoy it with aphrodisiacs or at a romantic dinner with your Valentine.

For more information on Loveblock wines visit loveblock.co.nz. Loveblock Pinot Noir is imported by Terlato Wines.

$37, 14% alcohol