Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dehesa Gago "Little g" 2010

   One of the first great everyday Spanish wines I ever encountered on my wine journey was the Dehesa Gago "Little g", produced by the Telmo Rodriguez Estate in the Toro DO of Northwest Spain. It's a wine I've ignored over the last few years as new wines have popped up on a very regular basis. I'm happy to say that I am ignoring it no longer as this is an absolutely delicious bottle, featuring bold up-front fruit and a very generous mid-palate. The grape here is Tempranillo, known locally as Tinto de Toro. It's got all the goodies...big aromas of roasted fruit and dark berries like blueberry and blackberry along with notes of coffee and cola. The flavors are just as big and mouth filling but what I love is that it is also balanced with enough acidity to give it lift. This beauty finishes long with slightly dusty tannins and a leathery note. There's a lot of wine out there that costs more but isn't nearly good as this $12.99 gem. Imported by newcomer Vintus, this is a bottling to seek out. Cheers.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Laborum Torrontes 2010

   Okay it's official. I am a huge fan of Argentinian Torrontes. So much for my old world bias. These new world white wines have everything I love. Big aromatics, complex flavors and vibrant acidity. I've already written up the Crios Torrontes and tonight we tried one from VOS import Bodegas El Porvenir. These grapes are grown at the almost impossible sounding altitude of 5700 ft. and produced just 2000 cases. They remind me so much of Alsatian Gewurztraminer yet they are lighter and more vibrant. This wine has big aromas of white flowers (Gardenia?), white peach, citrus elements and tarragon. It's mouth-filling flavors echo the peach, along with apricot, grapefruit and stony elements. It finishes long with a note of saline. It's also got wonderful, tangy acidity that make these wines great partners for spicy Asian food. We enjoyed the Laborum with a spicy, Thai-style fish soup that my wife cooked up. It's a shame that wines like this don't get more consideration from consumers. It cost me $15.99 and while that may be more than you might want to spend on a Tuesday night, if it's a Friday night you should definitely try this awesome wine out. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Le Bourcier Macon Cuvee Elena '08

   Chardonnay is still king by most accounts of today's white wine buying trends. Sales increase every year for this popular grape that accounts for almost 30% of domestic production. In addition, the Chardonnay drinking public has been moving more and more to unoaked versions for their everyday drinking and the California producers are rolling out more of these wines every year. But if there's one thing I've confessed on these pages, it's that I am going to skew old world in my tastes, and that means that for me, the best Chardonnays are French.
   The unoaked Cuvee Elena from Le Bourcier is a Chardonnay from France's Macon region (a sub-region of Burgundy), the home to millions of gallons of Chardonnay production every year. This bottle is a 2008 and it's somewhat golden color hints at a bit of oxidation as it nears the end of it's 2 or 3 year window of drinkability. It's delicious anyway. Beautiful aromas of honeyed pear, fresh fig and a minerally nuance lead to big flavors of pear, orange rind and almond. It's got excellent balancing acidity and a long, creamy finish. The aromas and flavors definitely fell off a bit with airing but I wouldn't hesitate to pick up an '09 or a '10 of this bottling. It's almost always delicious. Imported by one of my faves Polaner Selections, this easy drinking everyday Chardonnay cost me $12.99. Cheers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Syrocco 2008

   Here's a great little Syrah made from grapes sourced from a very unlikely place - Morocco! The winemaker is Alain Graillot, one of the top producers of the Northern Rhone whose Syrahs from Crozes Hemitage earn accolades on a consistent basis. As the story goes, Graillot was cycling through the Zenata area of Morocco when his route took him through a vineyard. The label features a couple of stick-figure cyclists. He stopped to chat with the owners and discovered that the grapes on the vines were the same varietal that he had spent his professional life working with. He promptly made a deal on a joint project to produce a user friendly everyday wine for the export market. This venture now produces about 8,000 bottles annually. It is a delicious example of Syrah that cost me $14.99. It has dark cherry aromas with notes of black olive and brown spices. In the mouth it features medium-bodied up front cherryish fruit with enough acidity to give it lift. Imported by Michael Skurnick, Syrocco is a very nicely balanced example of good everyday Syrah. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Holidays are for Nights Like This...

   Such a busy time the end of year holidays are, yet there is much joy to share in. This year we squeaked in a night out with some of our best friends at one of Philadelphia's best BYO's, Radicchio. It's hard to put into words how much fun this place is so luckily I have some pics to prove it, courtesy of our dear friend Sherry of Kobo Services.

The wine lineup of course was a big part of it. There's a Malbec from Alamos; A Cotes du Rhone from Domaine Boisson, which I have already written up on this blog; A Spanna from Vallana; and a couple of cherries from my cellar, a '07 Maison Bouachon Chateauneuf du Pape and a '97 Super Tuscan called Il Merlotto, a Sangiovese/Cabernet blend.

We started with some carpaccio with argula and shaved parmesan and some wonderful grilled baby artichokes with shrimp. The carpaccio was all melt in your mouth sweetness and the baby artichokes were cooked perfectly and drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil, the grilling adding a smokiness to the full bore flavor of the chokes. The shrimp did seem to be an unnecessary add on.

The star of the show at Radicchio however, is always the grilled octopus. I have never had such a tender plate of octopus, with the grill flavor bringing out the best of this often ignored delicacy.
Follow that with house made rigatoni with mussels and clams in a beautiful garlicky white sauce, and it starts getting hard to pack it all in.

A 2008 Gilbert Picq Chablis imported by one of my favorites, Polaner Selections, was the perfect wine for this course. I'm a big fan of this entry level Chablis, whose unoaked Chardonnay flavor, bracing acidity and distinct aromas of pear, apple and wet stones are perfect accompaniments for seafood. The '08s are wonderfully minerally in a way that the '09s are not, it being a riper, fruitier vintage. This example cost me $17.99.

I have to go off about the Spanna also. As a Nebbiolo fan, the most important red grape of Piedmont, there are few good examples of Nebbiolo based wines in the everyday category. Barbaresco and Barolo, the two most important wines made from that noble grape, are expensive and in need of extended aging to really show their best. This Spanna from the Colline Novarese zone and produced by one of the venerable old names, Vallana, is an incredible bargain at $13.99. It's soaring aromatics feature bitter cherry, liquorice and violets along with notes of saddle leather. It's flavors are equally large and mouth filling with the cherry and liquorice flavors standing out above all. It finishes lightly tannic and long. I wish more folks would take a chance on wines like this when they pop up in stores. They are so different yet so special. "Sir, put down the Cabernet and step away from the rack"

We also had a couple of entrees that were good but almost beside the point after all the appys. The Halibut was delicious but a thin hangar steak with mushrooms was overcooked and bland. Still, Radicchio is a must destination if you find yourself hungry and in Philadelphia. Oh yeah, the desserts are great also. Cheers and I hope everyone has a great 2012.