Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bodegas Atalaya "Laya" 2010

Here's a $7.99 Spanish wine that delivers what many wines costing twice as much can't possibly muster. This winery is a project of the Gil Family Estates, a group that produces a bevy of wonderful everyday Spanish wines. Here they have a sure winner that is comprised of 70% Garnacha Tintorera (also known as Alicante Bouschet) and 30% Monastrell (Mourvedre). Your met first with an inky black/dark purple color. There's very primary chocolatey cherry and dark berry aromas with a touch of peppery spice. The flavors are very large scaled, sweet and fruity yet there's no hint of over-ripeness here. It finishes fairly long with with coffee and spice notes and soft tannins. There's plenty of acidity to balance out the fruit and plenty of fruit to hide the 14.5% alcohol. From the Almansa DO in Southeastern Spain, a very warm region, I'm sure that the 2500 ft. in altitude that these vines live in help keep these grapes from getting too ripe. Although it's not the most complex quaff around, it's still an amazingly fruity and easy drinking wine for the price. Imported by Opici Imports, you really can't do much better for $7.99. Cheers.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Domaine du Pesquier Cotes du Rhone 2009

I've previously stated my love for these wines for everyday use and here is another great example from the fantastic '09 vintage. There is something special about the Grenache grape from this part of the world. In this version, the blend is 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 10% split between Carignan and Cinsault. This beauty features prominent aromatics of dark berries, licorice and pepper. It's bold, very ripe and fruity in the mouth, with coffee and earthy notes. It finishes long and lightly tannic, though in this case the fruit balances the tannins out. At Pesquier, the destemmed grapes are fermented in cement tanks that provide excellent temperature control and are then racked into large wooden tanks called "foudres". There's no new wood on these wines whatsoever. They also use a technique called "delestage", which removes the seeds from the fermenting process. Seed tannins are generally thought of as being harsher and greener than skin tannins, so this process will theoretically produce a softer, more approachable wine. Imported by VOS Selections, this tasty wine cost me $12.99. Cheers.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wellington Vineyards - Sonoma County Value

On our recent trip to California, we spent a day in Sonoma and visited a small family winery that makes wonderful wines that sell for reasonable prices. Some are a little more expensive than my stated price range for everyday wine, but some others fit right in. They are well made, delicious and true to type. In addition, we got to spend some time with owner Peter Wellington and Manager Toby Germano. 8 acres of Wellington's 21 total go back as far as 117 years. The picture below shows some of the vines from a block that goes back to 1912. These old vine parcels are planted mostly with Grenache, Zinfandel, Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and Carignan. These varietals are mixed together in "field blends", the thinking back then being that if one or two didn't fair well in a particular vintage, then the others would pick up the slack.

Now however, Wellington is bottling the Syrah, Zinfandel and Grenache separately, as well as Marsanne, Rousanne, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and several bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon. In the above photo, Janet gets a pruning lesson from owner Peter Wellington. The really old vines produce less fruit and thus more concentrated, more complex juice. These vineyards are cultivated in a sustainable manner, just a step shy of certified organic. Sulfur dust is occasionally used to control powdery mildew but insecticides and herbicides are never used.

3 of Wellington's everyday reds are readily available here on the east coast, the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mohrhardt Ridge Vineyard, a Sonoma Merlot and a Sonoma Zinfandel. The Cab has all the good primary fruit you expect from a from a California wine with a good bit of that herbal Cabernet character. It's balanced and finishes long and smooth with soft tannins. It sells for $16.99 at my local store. The Zinfandel is also wonderful, giving forth all the peppery dark fruit flavors you expect from this uniquely American varietal in a nicely balanced format. Though coming in at 15.5% alcohol, there is enough acidity to keep this brawny wine fresh tasting. It sells here for $12.99. Last but not least, the Sonoma Merlot hits all the right notes. And despite the movie "Sideways" and it's famous Merlot line, this grape still outsells Pinot Noir. Wellington's Merlot has all the bright cherry fruit you expect from this varietal with notes of chocolate and brown spices. It's soft and smooth and has none of the "weedy" characteristics you sometimes get from a hot climate Merlot. It also sells for $12.99. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mommessin Macon Villages 2009 - Old Vines Chardonnay

I haven't posted for awhile as my wife and I were in California for a week. I'll have a report in the coming days on a small Sonoma winery whose wines are wonderful values. For now though I have this.

Mommessin is a very large Burgundy producer that has been around for over 100 years. And although they have expanded into the Rhone Valley, it is their Burgundies that they have always been known for. When it comes to wine, bigger is frequently not better but in the case of this tasty little Chardonnay, Mommessin has produced an everyday winner. This wine was produced from 40 year old vines grown in chalky soil in 3 different villages. Old vines produce less fruit so the juice from old vines grapes is usually more concentrated and flavorful. The chalky soil adds the mineral notes to the profile. This wine has beautiful apple, pear and floral elements in the nose. The orchard fruit flavors repeat in the mouth with a velvety texture, good acidity and a mineral spine that will let you pair this beauty with a wide range of dishes. Hand harvested and fermented at low temperatures, this great value finishes long with a nutty nuance that makes me wonder if this wine was left to age on it's lees for a bit. It cost me $10.99. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chateau Viranel St. Chinian Rose 2011

As I mentioned in the Vibrant Rioja Tasting post, I drink a lot of rose this time of year. The weather's getting warmer, the grill is getting hotter and the wines are getting cooler. St. Chinian is one of those little known AOC's of the Languedoc, the large, southernmost wine region of France. It sits at the base of the Massif Central, a collection of plateaus made up of hundreds of extinct volcanos. This geology contributes structure and flavor to the wines of the region. The Chateau Viranel rose is a blend comprised of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 20% Cinsault from 30-60 year old vines from limestone terraced vineyards. With a beautiful deep pink color, this beauty features pungent aromas of fresh strawberry, raspberry and floral elements with light red berry flavors, notes of honey and excellent acidity and balance. It's fruity yet light on it's feet. It finishes long with mineral notes. Imported by the Maximum Wine Company, this kind of wine can really compliment your weeknight dining. At $14.99, it's a bit higher in price than most roses, but it's a bit more special than most also. Cheers.