Posts Tagged ‘california’

Sauvignon Blanc is In

July 6, 2010

When it comes to wine, nothing says summer like Sauvignon Blanc. Well, there is Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Tocai, Moschofilero, and all those delicious whites. But talking about Sauvignon Blanc, what a wonderful grape it is. Regardless where the wine is made, it always welcomes your nose with a brushtroke, an aromatic draft of vegetable nature, be it freshly cut grass, rue, lemongrass, gooseberry or a myriad other herbs. Properly made it delivers on that promise, lightning up your palate with shiny acidity and more or less fruit, again, depending on the origin. Some make your eyes tear with citric, limey quality; others are apt at imparting fully ripened apples, pears and peaches, while others offer subtle -or blunt- tropical flavors like guava, banana, passion or even dragon fruit.

More minerally versions, where terroir is highlighted and fruit -though firm- is more subdued, come from the Loire Valley, in the heart of France. Sancerre -right guess- but not the only apellation in the area where you will get delicious Sauv Blanc.  Try Chateau de Sancerre, Pascal Jolivet, Levin. A little less mineral and also riding an deliciously acidic wave, Northern Italy can be home to lovely Sauvignon Blanc. One bottle of Bastianich B will send you looking for more good renditions from the top of the boot-shaped country.

There’s no need to say much about New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, not much that haven’t been said already. Perhaps the most popular appellation for Sauvignon Blanc these days, the region’s wines are easy to drink, with a purity of fruit that is seldom found elsewhere. A Kiwi winemaker once told me that the high level of aseptique technique developed in the farm and dairy industries was behind this. Apparently, when New Zealand farmers lost some of their international markets due to competition, they redirected their skills at the wine industry. True or not, memorable whites come from the land of tongue-show-off warriors, unidentifiable national flag and bad soccer. Try the spark-studded  acidity of the Matua’s Paretai. Or the savory backdrop of the Wither Hills Rarangi. Or Jackson’s Stich. Not to mention the well known Kim Crawford, Scott or Villa Maria,plus all kind of  wines by names of critter and small mammals pissing on gooseberry bushes or monkeying around bays. Whoa, they sure  are taking after their Australian cousins when it comes to label originality.

Chile does a great job too. Their Sauvignon Blancs are second to none, except to Sancerre and Marlborough, and Pouilly Fume. And…just kidding.  Casas del Bosque is a gem of a finding at 17 dollars. Firm fruit, impeccable acidity (Impeccable. Im starting to sound like Bobby Parker) and 90 WE points make my point. Brilliant. Veramonte and Errazuriz make truly good stuff under 15 dollars. They will shine any night at any party.

Malbec comes next. Er, I meant to say, Argentina. Who would’ve thought they can make anything other than red? Well, think again. Mapema (the only thing going against this delicious wine is its name. And its price @ $21) is a big surprise. Ripe fruit weaved into the firm acidic frame, this Sauvingon Blanc is a sign of better whites to come from Mendoza. And from further north in the country. Paula is another solid Sauv Blanc, leaner on the fruit and with remarkable, kiwi-esque acidity. Trophee winner Pascual Toso, after delighting us with Cab Sauvs and Malbecs, makes a pretty decent SauvBlanc for 13 dollars. And a solid rose, although, that is another matter.

How to finish this without a mention of California? With a touch of oak, Grgich makes a simply beautiful Fumee Blanc. Beautiful, memorable, remarkable. The similarly lightly oaked Supery comes close. And for those with deeper pockets, don’t let the summer go by without trying the superb Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc. We’ll taste vicariously through you.

Salud!

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Liberty School Portfolio

August 27, 2009

Thanks to Altovin International, a British Columbia based wine agency, I had the opportunity to try their Californian Liberty School wines. For the last few years, LS Cabernet Sauvignon has gained notoriety as a good pick in the 20-25 CDN bracket. I enjoyed it and can see why it is so popular. I tried their Syrah as well, but my high mark goes to their 2007 Chardonnay. Here my notes on these three popular wines.

Chardonnay 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Bright nose with apple, dragon fruit, clarified butter. Nice, creamy texture, medium bodied, good acidity of lemony character. Alcohol well integrated, overall oak is subtle and the finish is long, riding on apple skin. A very good California style Chardonnay for the price.

Syrah 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Purple legs, young looking wine. Green waft on the nose, pepper, cough syrup. On the palate a tad sour. Medium bodied, tannins angular. I am not ready to pick this Syrah yet.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Purple ruby robe, nice sweet nose with blackcurrant, spice and lavender. Medium body, juicy and soft. Good acidity and nice finish. Easy to understand why it is so popular.

Zinfandelis Part One

August 8, 2009

Oh the much ridiculed grape from California. The grape only Californians love. The grape that Vancouverites love to hate. Well, here they were, the Zinfandel ambassadors, those pesky Americans, full of sound and fury, full of grandiloquence, celebrating their beloved Zinfandel, spreading the good news, the word, as if spreading the gospel, perhaps, being Americans, that is the way they know well, fundamentalist Christian style, even when the subject is just wine. When the issue of Primitivo being the same grape was raised, oh yes, oh they reacted like zealous keepers of the faith. It was fun to watch.

Passion, passion, a word that was pronounced again and again by the speakers, winemakers, who came to Vancouver to show us that, yes, Zinfandel can, yes it can, and it certainly does, not to the degree they would like to, but yes, I enjoyed many of the Zins tasted and for sure, I can see it as great food wine.

British Columbians will resist Zinfandel for a while. They are stuck with the image of Zin being a sweet blush cheap wine. Humans resist new things, resist change, like no other species. British Columbian humans oh they love to hate America, they love to hate Americans and things American. Perhaps because there are no discernible differences between the two cultures, the only way to set themselves apart is by negation. Anyway, going back to the subject of interest. I am certain the gospel of Zin will eventually spread, taken by the hand of Vancouver’s cuisine, which is, surprise, Asian. Zinfandel is the perfect red wine to marry the spicy, sweet, tangy, hot dishes that come from Guangdon to Hanoi, from Bangalore to Bangkok, the whole arch of far eastern cultures.

For those who dare to try:

Ironstone 2007 Old Vine. Lodi. 14.5%, 19.99.
Simple, packed with red and dark berries, spice, medium bodied juicy, easy drinking.

Ridge Lytton Springs. 2006. 14.7%. 49.99.
A dash of Syrah and a bit of Carignan make this Zin very interesting, with beau coffeeish red fruit and great acidity plus a subtle vegetal streak. Delicious, but ay, there is the rub, fifty bucks.

Ridge Three Valleys 2007 14.3%. 39.99.
It doesn’t deliver like its older sibling. The acidity sags behind the fruit and the alcohol.

Robert Biale Black Chicken 2006. Napa Valley. 15.8 %. 84.99.
A fantastic Zifandel, with great acidity, beautiful balance and structure, elegant. The price, again, goes against it.

Robert Biale Black Chicken 2007. Napa Valley. 15.8 %. 84.99.
Not as bright as its 2006 partner.

Seghesio Home Ranch. 2007. Alexander Valley. 15.5%. 49.99
Full bodied, fruit forward, velvety Zin. Yes, despite the price.

Seghesio Cortina 2006. Creek Valley, N. Sonoma. 15.2%. 49.99.
A more astringent wine that its stable mate above, a more “Italian” feeling to it. High acidity bordering with unpleasant, but then, just not crossing that line, and making it very interesting, very challenging, with a long finish, one of the stars of the show. Yes, go and get one.

Zinfandel and Food

August 4, 2009

I’ve never been much into Zinfandel, the signature grape of California, now hotly contested by Italy and Croatia, both of which claim the paternity of the variety, as DNA tests show that Zinfandel is closely related -if it is not the same grape- to the Primitivo grape of Southern Italy and Croatia’s Crljenak.

If the grape’s DNA identity is confirmed, hell will be on its way, as many producers in Italy will call their wine Zinfandel if so they wish, putting serious competition to the Golden State’s exports to Europe. The issue makes Californian producers very nervous, and with good reason.

Whatever the case, at the last Everything Wine Zinfandel tasting I enjoyed several California renditions, which I will describe in a future posting. What I wanted to say on this one is that I found Zinfandel tremendously food friendly. We had it paired with a variety of cheeses, charcouterie, even spicy sauces and the deep red, fruity wine came out chin up from all the encounters.

ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, an organization from California, claims that their beloved wine is the best red match for Oriental cuisine. After the tasting, I start to believe they may be into something. Although never had a big following in Vancouver, the large influence of Asian food here may well change that, as more wine lovers discover this affinity of Zin wine for Zen food.

Cheers