I know, I know, the wine name is absurdly long.  But trust me, it's great wine. Valpolicella is the region where the wine is made in northeastern Italy called the Veneto.  The grapes are three - possibly three you've never heard of: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Sometimes called a "baby Amarone," the secret to this wine is the Ripasso method—a technique that passes the juice over the skins and seeds from an Amarone fermentation. This sets off another fermentation, taking the cherry fruit flavors of Valpolicella and creating a much richer, spicier wine with more tannin, and a bit more alcohol. You get lots of blackfruit, coffee, figs, and raisins, and much of the intensity and pleasure of Amarones at…

Read More

Good Chard under ten bucks is almost unheard of.  This is one of them.  And it's a pretty good wine to serve before, if not with, the Thanksgiving meal. Now if you're a real fan of big, sweet, caramel-y, high alcohol Chardonnays you probably won't be impressed.  Because this is a crisp, virtually unoaked, almost Chablis-like wine, with citrus and pineapple aromas and flavors of lemon and a hint of vanilla. This is not from Burgundy, of course; it's from the Languedoc-Roussillon in the very southeast, bordering on the Mediterranean, and the wine is classified "Pays d'Oc".  That means, mainly, it's good table wine from a fairly large region. And it also is an amazingly good, remarkably inexpensive wine that…

Read More

For thirteen bucks, you really can't do much better. That's my opinion, and it's also the opinion of a bunch of wine Judges at the Ultimate Wine Challenge in NY City this past May. Normally I don't put too much stock in wine contests, but this one I liked, especially as the tastings were blind and the top scorers were were then tasted by a whole different group of judges. And they put a lot of emphasis on affordable and value wines.  This is certainly one of them. Anyway, what a great food wine: medium bodied, with flavors of black and bing cherries, a hint of leather, nice acidity, and enough tannin to chew on but not overwhelm you. Most of this is Sangiovese,…

Read More

Chilean wine has come a long, long way from the $3 plonk I drank in college. This very good value bottle comes from Concha Y Toro, a winery run by people I've come to really appreciate. Concha is actually a huge operation with a slew of labels-including Casillero del Diablo, Don Melchor, Cono Sur, Terrunyo, and Los Robles-but they're very focused on quality, and in many ways resemble a collection of boutique wineries rather than a major production house. The 2008 Marques de la Casa Concha Cab is one of those wines that could easily have become an overripe, over-tannic, high-alcohol fruit bomb. Instead, it's nicely structured and well balanced, just moderately powerful and lush enough. There's a little mint…

Read More

Fall is almost here and this wine, made from a grape you probably never heard of—Romorantin—is an ideal drink for the season. Lots of "onlys" here: there are only about 48 hectares of Romorantin in total, only in France's Loire valley, and amounting to only about 119 acres across 30 domaines. One of the best, proprietor François Cazin picks his grapes entirely by hand, uses gravity only (no pumping), wild rather than cultured yeasts, and bottles without filtering. So, when he gets a good crop, he gets great wines, but with so little manipulation, that’s not every year. Cazin’s white Cheverny is a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Chardonnay, but the Cour-Cheverny by definition is 100% Romorantin. His…

Read More

Granted it’s a long name.  But it’s a great wine, made from a pretty interesting combination of Riesling (55%) Sauvignon Blanc (17%) Marsanne (16%) Roussanne (12%).  If you think about it, that’s three wine regions and potentially a dozen or more countries, but it all comes from the McLaren Vale region of Australia. The wine is named for the unique plough that can ride over – but not get stuck in - the stumps and gnarled roots often found in this area. Now let’s get down to the wine itself…It’s got a great nose that comes mostly from the Riesling, but on the palate you get crispness from the Sauvignon Blanc, minerality from the Marsanne and Roussanne, and nice peach,…

Read More

This is a grape - and a wine - that few people in North America have heard of, let alone tasted.  But it's well worth your time and taste buds to do so!    Torrontes is widely considered to the the "signature" white of Argentina, and as far as I can tell it's the only country that produces it.  We believe the grape is hybrid of Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica, called the Mission grape in California.   This isn't a white wine for the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio-drinking set, mind you. It has character, powerful aromatics and real body - delivering up enticing floral aromas and flavors of lime, white peach, and white melon.  Not to step on the toes of Old Spice, but this wine…

Read More

I know it's 100 degrees outside right now and I ought to be pushing a nice dry Rose or a crisp, citrusy Chablis.  But tonight I'll suggest instead that you crank the AC and open a bottle of Chateau Tanunda Cabernet Sauvignon Noble Baron 2007. The fruit for this wine - mostly Cab with a few percent each of Shiraz and Cab Franc - is hand picked, basket pressed and unfiltered, giving it great authenticity that's enhanced rather than overpowered by 18 months in oak.  It's rich and dense but not sweet, with an elegance and subtlety that belies its power and finish that lingers long after.  The Noble Baron has got discernible mint and spice flavors, which I don't…

Read More

  For years, I thought that rosé wines were kids’ stuff – sweet, with no body or character.  This probably came from memories of drinking Mateus Rosé in my early 20s—that famously cheap, commercial wine in the familiar flask-shaped green bottle, invented to appeal to everyone. Too sweet to pair with food and lacking sufficient acidity to refresh, Mateus is fizzy but it’s not really a sparkling wine. I also remember drinking Lancers, Rosé d’Anjou, and under full disclosure I’ll even admit to having tasted white Zin from time to time. Hey, my Aunt Mary liked it and brought it to the house.   The result of those youthful indiscretions was that for a long time I though all pink wines were sugary, nasty stuff and almost never tried…

Read More

I know, I know, everyone reaches for Santa Margherita at a holiday party or a restaurant. Hey, they spend a lot of money on advertising and the brand name is well known. But between us, it's not really good wine, and it's absurdly expensive for what you get. That's why the Wine of the week is Maso Canali Trentino Pinot Grigio. Why is this really good wine? Well I could blather on about late-harvested grapes, stainless steel fermentation, lots of contact with the lees, the fact that the same family has been farming there for 500 years, or that they don't do malolactic fermentation. The most important reason, though, is that the good folks at Maso Canali use the Passito…

Read More