Archive for October, 2009

Fiano MandraRossa my New Favorite Budget White

October 29, 2009

Produced and bottled in Sicily, the 2008 MandraRossa Fiano is a delicious white mandrarossa_fiano_lab_smwine, with a nose reminiscent of the lemon tree orchards that grow on the legendary island. The aromatic nose is decidedly lemony, as is the palate, slightly oily, of a very nice texture indeed. The flavor spectrum includes ripe white peach and a brushstroke of fine herbs.

This wine was a perfect company for a plate of Pasta Vongole. (Click on link for recipe). I have checked out several online recipes but I find that my favorite is the very basic one with just a few ingredients.spaghetti-alle-vongole11

At 15.99, this is wine to pay attention to. The 2007 version won a ‘Great Value White Wine’ gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, considered the world’s largest wine competition.

Advertisements

Power and Earthy Concentration: The Tempranillos from the Toro Region

October 26, 2009

toro mapWest and slightly south of Ribera del Duero, the Toro region of Spain has been producing wine since before the times of the Romans. Until quite recently this region was considered a wine backwater and was barely recognized outside of Spain.

However, the tremendous synergy that exists between its Tempranillo toro-imdenominacion1_14-size590(known as Tinta de Toro) and the prevailing poor soils, has made an indellible mark on the palate of wine lovers around the world. Anecdotally, Toro means bull, an animal whose qualities of strength and persistence seem to have been passed to the wines from this land. So, what is so special about the Tempranillos from Toro?

Aside from the soils, which usually present sand underpinned by clay -in the northern part of Toro limestone is more common- the region receives very little rainfall. The dry, poor soils are further stressed by a scorching 2,800 hours of sunlight annually. All this results in the vines -especially the old ones- having to struggle to their limits to extract nutrients and moisture from such extreme growing conditions. The relatively high elevation of the vineyards guarantee cool nights, essential for the fruit to avoid being “baked” and for the level of acids to remain high in the berries.

The resulting grapes -and wines- of Toro are a vivid expression of the land. The growing conditions “educate” the vine, in a process which impact is gradual, slow and profound. Powerful flavors of red fruit, stone, earth and sweet tannin are the hallmark of a good Tinta de Toro. The concentration of these wines can be remarkable and distinct from most other wine drinking experiences. Many Tinta de Toro wines can easily be aged for decades, not losing potency due to their fruit concentration, unflagging acidity and tannic load. Sometimes up to 25% Garnacha is blended with Tempranillo to provide spice, aromatics and supple tannins.

Here a few tasting notes on Tempranillos from Toro available in Metro Vancouver.

Dehesa Gago 2007. Produced by prestigious Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodríguez, this Tempranillo is fully unoaked with slightly carbonic aromas and black fruit. There is a curious whiff of gasoline at the end of the nose. The richness of the body does not exclude fresh, vibrant fruit acidity. Overtones of rusticity and a marked mineral streak imprint the palate with the unmistakable flavor of Toro. Let breathe before drinking or pour through aereator. 19.99.

Viñaguareña Barrica 2006. Don’t let the long name intimidate you. This Tempranillo is awash with ripe red fruit aromas supported by smoky, toast and coffee notes. Fleshy on the palate, lingers with fruit, roasted coffee and vibrant acidity. 21.99.

Finca Sobreño. This 100% Tempranillo shows a nose with violets and strawberry marmalade. Full bodied, concentrated dark fruit and earthy minerality are the main features of this formidable Toro. The long finish lingers with traces of fruit and caramel. 32.99.

Sabor Real. Viñas Centenarias 2005. Produced from vines that average 100 years of age, this Tempranillo merited 91 Parker points. An inviting nose that is downward, intense, earthy, with cherry and cigar box. Heavyweight body with dense red fruit underpinned by charcoal and dark chocolate. The finish is strong and warm, evincing excellent alcohol integration. Deep, dark and terrestrial, this is a phenomenal drink on its own and enhanced by grilled lamb, pasta with forest mushrooms or Paella Valenciana. 24.99.

Import Vintners & Spirits Association New Products Salon: The Reds

October 24, 2009

Scary. Looking at my calendar I realize that the next IVSA event is scheduled for November 9th! So, before I get a glut of new wine notes to comment here, I will go back to those I had in the September event. And since I already posted notes on the whites I enjoyed, let’s now visit the tintos I found memorable. You may notice that mostly I am covering Italian wines but given the size of the IVSA event and the number of products (and the number of people you stop by to say hi and chat) there was little room for anything else.

• Let’s start with one of my favorites of that busy evening. Enoteca Bacco brings a truly delicious Negroamaro varietal, the 2006 Verve IGT from Salento. Pure expression of fruit, direct and ample, with dark overtones and really fun to drink. Not surprisingly, a previous incarnation of this wine, the Verve 2004, collected gold medals left, right and center. Battle the incoming November blues with Verve matching grilled blue fish like mackerel, sardines or spicy dishes (click on links for recipes). Just under 30 dollars, this listed product is available at LDB stores.

Tempus Malbec 2007. Under 18 dollars, I fully enjoyed this uncomplicated, fruity, filling Malbec brought to us by MKR Importers. A no brainer for roasted beef, grilled meats, sausage in a bun with friends, etc. Just make sure you don’t eat your friends. Ha ha.

• When I had the Anghelos IGT 2006 I did understand the reason for the name: Angelic. I recommend this wine with absolutely NO reservations to those who enjoy a balsamic nose followed by a meaty, fleshy chunk of fruity acidity and elegant tannins that do not let go. Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano and Sangiovese are blended in this superb broth hailing from the Marche region. Soft enough to accompany a Pasta Fagioli (pasta and beans in tomato sauce) but will stand up to an Osso Bucco. Wine Quest importers hit it right on the nose with this vino tinto. Under 40 dollars, this is the kind of wine you want to kick off the cool part of the year in full form.

Fontanabianca means “white fountain”, which is the name of the winery that makes the Sori Burdin 2004 Barbaresco. This broth is potenza (potence) in the full meaning of the term. Nebbiolo grapes in grand style, with a tremendous aromatic profile and an equally tremendous body and tannic structure. Robert Parker, in his flowery-paralegal style calls this wine “authoritative”. I don’t know how a wine can be authoritative but I surely like the adjective here. Close to 90 dollars, granted not a wine for everyday consumption, but make sure you have a bottle around for that special occasion. And give me a shout when you do; I’d love to have this tinto again.

Di Majo Norante is a producer that always delivers quality at affordable prices, without compromising the quality and more importantly, the sense of terroir. Their Sangiovese and Ramitello are good examples of this, but here I want to mention the Prugnolo del Molise IGT 2004. A delicious, easygoing yet flavorful Sangiovese. Light and playful but balanced and structured enough to be taken seriously. This product, brought by Style Wines retails for less than 22 dollars.

•The last two wines are both represented by Liquid Art Fine Wines. The Tenuta Sette Ponti ‘Crognolo’ IGT 2006 is a Sangiovese Merlot blend from Toscana. At around 40 dollars a bottle, it merited a 92 pt score by Wine Spectator (08/31/08). Full bodied, concentrated, tannic, warm, with cherry and earthy aromas and flavors, this is a delicious, powerful wine.

I closed the night with the Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape AC, 2006. I knew it would be my last tasting of the night. The lights had already flickered off a couple of times and the Liquid Art reps were already putting their gear away. I could not but ask for a second pouring, being late and feeling like I deserved a break. I savored every drop of the Cristia. Elated and in awe, I only jotted down

depth suavidad elegance long red fruit rocks beautiful alcohol integration A

Enough said.

Hasta la proxima.

Budget Fall Wines

October 20, 2009

In good and bad times it is always nice to find good quality, inexpensive vino. Customers are always looking for a bargain, aka “bang for your buck” and I have tasted innumerable cheapies to separate the grain from the chaff. Prices vary greatly in Metro Vancouver, so be sure to buy your wines in stores where you will get the lower tags.

Starting with whites, I recently found two wonderful Chardonnays. The first one hails from Southern France louislatour_chardand is produced by world known winehouseLouis LaTour. The 2007 Ardeche Chardonnay is a delightful unoaked version, which has been allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. Light, slightly creamy, with touches of tropical fruit, I enjoyed this one a lot and since I posted a shelf talker many a customer has become a fan. It sells for 13.99 at Everything Wine (North Vancouver) and LDB stores (check website for branches that carry it. Some cold beer and wine stores sell this product for up to 23.99 so beware.

From Southern Italy, in the Puglia region, we have the Tormaresca Chardonnay (2006, 2007). Light and 3348-tormaresca-chardonnay-500minerally this wine offers great value. I think this one to be unoaked or only slightly oaked. At 15.99, it has become one of my favorite whites.

Puglia also brings us an excellent red, perhaps on the top ten under ten dollars. The Paiara blend of paiara Cabernet Sauvignon and Negroamaro grapes is round, balanced and persistent, surprisingly so for a wine so inexpensive. LDB stores and Everything Wine sell the product for 9.99 and once you taste it you will probably make it a staple for weekdays. My woman recently made a delicious Tortilla de Patatas (potato omelette, Spanish style. Click link for recipe) for brunch and this medium-light red was the perfect companion.

From the land of Kangaroos, Koalas, venomous critters and man-eating sharks, the 2006 Rock Art Cabernet Merlot is sensational for the price. Everything wine carries the product for 12.99 but it had it as special during the Thanksgiving long weekend, selling scores of cases at 8.99, an absolute steal. Even at 12.99 this little wine is serious and convincing, with a solid fruit front, balance and a bit of structure that suggests that the 3 years spent in bottle added a little quality.

To finish this ripasso, let’s go to Patagonia, Argentina, and taste the 2007 Diego Murillo Merlot. Organic, diegomurillovelvety and full flavored, this wine is perfect for the nostalgic, sweet emotions that only the season of falling leaves can arouse. Dark and deep, this little jewel by Humberto Canale winery is well worth the 10.99 you pay for it at LDB and Everything Wine.

Enjoy the rest of the season and brace yourselves for overwhelming, rainy, grey November.

Andeluna Wines

October 6, 2009

Argentina keeps surprising the world of wine. Last week Vancouver hosted the andeluna panoramicWines of Argentina event at the Sutton Place Hotel. Wineries from all over the country of Tango, from the hot, arid high elevation vineyards in Salta to the wind-swept pampas of Patagonia’s Neuquen, were present offering their best Malbec, Torrontes, Cabernet Sauvignon, among other varietals and blends. Andeluna Cellars was present at the event, with Mike Kenter, Vice President and Marketing Officer for the US at the booth. So, let’s leave the Wines of Argentina tasting for a later posting and let’s look at Andeluna’s wines instead.

Mike Kenter has been to Argentina a number of times, both in central, Andean bodega_1Mendoza and also in Patagonia, where he combines his wine enthusiasm with fishing trips. He knows the country and loves the wines. When his friend H. Ward Lay of Frito Lay bought property near Mendoza and started producing outstanding wines, enlisting the services of world renowned Michel Rolland and Argentine winemaker Silvio Alberto, Mike joined him on his quest. I had the opportunity to meet one on one with Mike at the Dream Wines headquarters, in Yaletown, courtesy of David Tremblay, to taste some of the best wines Andeluna has to offer today.

Most wineries claim they are on search of excellence for their wines. In the case of Andeluna, after tasting three reds and a Torrontes, this seems to be true. This 2008 Torrontes was arguably one of the best varietals I have tasted. Although this may seem anathema to many, Torrontes appears to be destined to produce rustic wines, lacking finesse or even proper acidity. This was something that I found interesting in Andeluna’s Torrontes, very good acidity, in a lean, unoaked version of the varietal. Its elegance and lingering spice has earned it 87 Parker points, and it is definitely one I favor when compared to other Torrontes I tasted before. This wine will retail for about 18-20 dollars.

The Winemaker’s Selection 2007 Malbec (already available at LDB and private stores) was the second wine in the flight. I had tried it before, and only confirmed what I found previously. This is a serious competitor in the 18-24 dollar bracket. Winemaker Silvio Alberto checked all the elements that a good Malbec should have; none stands out, none is weak. A low 10 tons of grapes per hectare harvested at 4300 feet, results in improved concentration and flavor. Simple, straightforward in its potency, loaded with pure dark fruit and with a good finish, this is a wine worth every cent you pay. No need to look any further for a solid, inexpensive steak wine.

Andeluna also offers a terrific Limited Reserve Malbec. The 2004 vintage is TN_bottle_R_Malbec2produced from vineyards yielding only 2.5 to 3 tons per hectare. This is Malbec at its best, and talking to colleagues we all agreed that you may pay 20 or 30 dollars more but you will not get a lot more Malbec (retail price in Vancouver is around 45 dollars). Great palate, chewy, meaty, excellent tannic structure… I could keep piling positive adjectives on this Malbec. The 14.7% alcoholic concentration is not noticeable, as this is very well integrated with the fruit and acidity. Knowing well the wine retail industry in Vancouver, I am convinced that this product will fly off the shelves once it hits the “City of Glass’” retail outlets.

After the Limited Reserve Malbec I believed I could not be further impressed by TN_bottle_R_Passthe last wine in the flight, Andeluna’s flagship Pasionado. This is a Bordeaux style blend that has its individual components aged for 12 months prior to an extra six to eight months once blended. I turned out to completely underestimate the winemaking abilities of Andeluna’s Silvio Alberto. The Pasionado 2004 Grand Reserve shows a restrained nose that promises a lot more. Once on my palate I stopped writing notes. I just could not keep going; I had to focus on what my body, my physical body, was experiencing. Tremendo Vino like they say in the Southern latitudes of Latin America. A tremendous wine, indeed. Incredibly powerful and equally incredibly easy to drink. Certainly Andeluna Cellars is on the right track.

These two latter products will be hitting Vancouver wine stores around the third week of November, and there will not be a lot of them. Make sure you grab your bottle.

A Soiree with an Argentinean Winemaker

October 2, 2009

Argentina Tango, the South World Wine Society’s* wine tasting event of Photo-0070September, featured Ms. Celeste Pesce, assistant winemaker of Luca Wines, a small lot production effort led by Laura Catena, scion of the quasi legendary Catena family of Argentina.

When I first arrived at the Sculpture Room of the Listel Hotel, I saw familiar faces, wine lovers who attend the Society’s events with regularity, the members of the exec committee, but couldn’t find the lecturer. I saw a bunch of women, attractive, well dressed, chatting near the bar, but I couldn’t tell if Celeste was one of them. They looked too vancouverite to be her, so I went around the room, not asking my fellow members, so as to guess, just by the looks, who Celeste was.

I figured I should be able to tell. This lady got her degree in enology in Udine at the age of 26. She became assistant winemaker to Laura Catena at 29. Is talent like that written on the face? Which of these women could be her? I also considered her ancestry. Pesce, meaning fish, is an Italian last name. So I figured she would have that mediterranean dark, that voluptous look of the daughters of Botticelli, Garibaldi and Sophia Loren. I placed my eyes on a woman whose dark hair, full and supple, made me think that was Celeste.

I was walking toward her when a red-haired, jeans clad thin girl, with a boyish glint in her blue eyes gave me the amplitude of her smile, with a few strands of hair reaching over her eyes and down to her freckle-covered cheeks. “Tu eres Ivan, el Peruano?”. I could not conceal my amazement. This was Celeste, asking me in Spanish and with a very slight Argentinean accent, if I was who I am. She must’ve heard from other members of the exec committe that there was a Latino on board. She looked decidedly Irish, or at least, she looked as she came from the British Islands. I learned later that her mother side is Swiss. So on we went with our Spanish, animated chat. It’s a great feeling when you can speak your mother tongue. I sat next to Celeste and listened to her as she walked us through the eight La Posta and Luca wines of the night.

Celeste was quite candid about her life. Everyone was surprised to hear that she grew up in a farm in Santa Fe, a town north of Buenos Aires, milking cows and driving tractors. While studying agriculture in Mendoza she discovered her love for wine. “The faculty of agriculture was very wine and viticulture oriented, so it really caught my attention. But what really gave me the final push was to study at the Univessita degli Studi in Udine”. She also had a life-changing experience when she went back to the roots of her family, in Italy. She fell in love with the history of wines, the evolution of winemaking and winedrinking. She could relate to this very well, as in her own home in Argentina they have a lot of immigrants from Italy and Spain, and a vigorous wine culture.

Celeste’s job at Luca is to work with the chief winemaker, Luis Reginato. They work with the growers in the vineyards and then focus on the vinification and blending. The production is rather small, no more than a thousand cases for their Chardonnay and Laborde Syrah, and barely two thousand for their highly esteemed Malbec.

The audience fully enjoyed the night, the wines, the food, and most of all, Celeste’s natural ability to engage people. To tell stories about winemaking, about her childhood, or just anecdotes that happen to those who fly around the world promoting their wines.

When it came the time to vote the favorite three wines of the night, the majority chose the La Posta Pizzella Malbec. Close second came the Luca Malbec followed by the Luca Chardonnay. Celeste’s favorite was the Luca Laborde Syrah, and so was mine. This Syrah is produced from clones selected in France and Argentina. Supple, impressive, deep, this wine left me thinking, wondering, about the sun touching the leaves and bunches day after day, the cold nights, the bunches invisible, hanging on the vines in the dark. It made my mind wander and imagine the winemakers, their labor in the bodega, in the vineyard, their dreams. But enough of my favorite wine. All the wines poured that night score high points with the most prestigious wine critics.

Below the list of wines served at the event:

Catena Chardonnay 2007-88 pts. Wine Spectator**
– La Posta Estela Armando Vineyard Bonarda 2007-89 pts. Wine Advocate
La Posta Cocina Blend 2007-90 pts. Wine Advocate
– La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2008-89 pts. Wine Advocate.
Luca Chardonnay 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate
Luca Malbec 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate
Luca Syrah Labourde Double Select 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate

*The South World Wine Society will be hosting their popular “Big Reds” event on November 5th. More information and registration at www.southworldwine.com
**The wines in bold are available at Everything Wine, North Vancouver Store.