Instead of traipsing our military might, equipment and workers through Red Square in front of the state’s military and political leaders, for May we’re parading this month’s award-winning and soon-to-be award-winning features for our clients.
LAK021, $14.99 2007 Lakeville Cellars, Maxwell Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, California:
bronze, recommended 2008 WWC
Sauvignon Blanc remains the Rodney Dangerfield of the big three whites in the US, though people really should be lining up for this versatile gem. Vintner Hossein Namdar owns one of the greatest sites for Sauvignon in the nation, Lake County’s Maxwell Vineyard. He, Bob Goyette and I bottled this Loire tradition Sauvignon (100% varietal, no oak) under the guidance of the world’s number one winemaker, Mother Nature, in her quite accessible 2007 vintage. This textbook high quality Sauvignon displays old world winemaking traditions in the service of top new world terroir. Tangy acidity supports aromas and flavors of herbs, lemon-lime (7 Up!), figs, grapefruit and pineapple, all nicely integrated. Perfect as the warm weather approaches, particularly with salads and seafood.
ITA684, $14.99 2008 Masserie Civitella, Rossone, Negro Amaro Malvasia Nera, Salento IGT, Italy
OK, so they’re not gonna be asking for this Puglian red by name, but once they taste it, they’ll be fighting over the rest of the bottle - the price/value ratio here is off the charts! Legendary Northeast Italy vintner Gian Andrea Tinazzi also works down South, (as well as in Abruzzi) and we’re offering his version of the traditionally-already-among the-greatest–of-values, the Salice Salentino Riserva blend. Tinazzi uses the identical local Puglian grapes, but sourced from slightly beyond the area boundaries. The less expensive raw materials, Tinazzi winemaking ability, plus the unique local techniques, yield additional value. Floral, mature-but-not-old red berry and plum aromas and flavors, framed in toasty vanilla and cigar box oak, supply the hook. Beginner friendly, yet rustic and earthy, with the smooth, supple feel and heft of the finest California Merlots, this wine works well with most white and red meats. Guaranteed-to-be-an-award-winner-soon, the Puglian delivers accessibility and character via virtuoso wine-making, but you’ll be too busy enjoying it to take notice.
AUS292, $17.99 2007 Strongroom, Geographe Shiraz, Western Australia
silver, highly recommended 2010 WWC
Australian wines are in an interesting place right now in the US. Recently forced to sell their wines as fine wine, rather than subsidized, low price commodities with a gimmick, the jury is still out on how many down under bottlings really stack up now, dollar-for-dollar apples-to-apples with the rest of the wine world, and if the buying public will continue to embrace them. Since Western Australia has always been one of the country’s lesser known and undervalued regions, I suspect that at least WA wines will be able to continue to expand on their tiny American market share, hence this signature-Aussie-red Shiraz feature. Since I’m flogging the 07 Strongroom, from a relatively new Geographe appellation, as an optimum value versus the rest of the planet’s Syrahs, I’d rather that you heed the notes of the 2010 World Wine Championships judges – don’t just take my word for it: "Dense inky violet black color. Aromas of blueberry compote and eucalyptus follow through on a round, supple entry to a dry-yet-fruity medium-full body with great spicy depth and a rounded creme brulee note. Finishes with a long, juicy tangy fade. A delicious, zesty shiraz for sipping or the table"
(re-purposed from November, 2009)
NAP960, $24.99 2004 Brava Terra Reserve, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, California:
silver, highly recommended 2010 WWC
Brava Terra is our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon label and we almost never - one time in the past twelve years – bottle a Brava Terra Reserve, to give some perspective as to how special this wine really is. Fruit for the 04 Brava Terra Reserve originated at a model-for-sustainability, a family-owned ranch farmed in a tranquil corner of Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is one the family’s trademark varietals. Here the Napa Valley ‘s warm days and cool nights are exaggerated a bit, due to elevation and distance from the moderating influences of the San Francisco Bay. This yields ripe, luscious fruit with crisp acidity – well balanced grapes that produce well balanced wines. Enough stress on the vines insures concentrated, complex flavors. This yields rich, sophisticated, accessible-when-young wines that unfurl layer upon layer with bottle age. And this 2004 was already aged for two additional years on the family’s dime! (Most of Napa Valley is shipping 2006’s or 2007’s.) This is classic, delicious now, intense, luxurious Napa Cab. A blueberry, cherry and currant nose precedes explosive cassis, cherry and anise flavors in the mouth. The topper is that we’ve seen current vintages of Cabernet from this ranch for $30 to $40 per bottle, back vintages at $100 to $130. And since this $24.99 wine will continue to age gracefully minimum another six years, I’ll let you do the back vintage price math…
And not a politician in sight!
Monday, April 5
Arrived at the van Hoof’s Rotterdam office from Boston via Amsterdam.
No rest for the jet-lagged.
Tasted through a group of wines previously filtered by Peter, Annie and their panel: Spain, the Loire Valley, the Southern Rhone and Bordeaux.
Lowlights included a Spanish white with approximately the same make up as our SON573, 09 Mira Luna, Tough Day Chardonnay – more on that theme to follow – it seems that other vintners world-wide realize we have a hit on our hands…
More interested in the 09 Cabernet d’Anjou from Domaine de la Treille, perfect picnic-in-a-bottle rose.
Liked a value priced Bordeaux Superieur, 09 Ch Pudris and the 08 Domaine de Clos Godeaux Chinon was perfect – textbook Cabernet Franc.
Later, with the panel, went through, some would claim tortured by, 21 Nebbiolos, impressed by the 06 Moscone and the 08 Le Cecche.
Tuesday, April 6
Travel day, took the Petermobile to Monte Carasso-Belinzona, Switzerland.
Traffic gods were with us, and in addition to sketching out our European wine plan through 2011, we commenced the annual taste-while-we-drive review of Western European branded chocolates: Dutch, Belgian, French, German, Swiss and Italian, with Belgian clinging to a narrow lead over Swiss.
Wednesday, April 7
Picked up Matt at the airport outside of Milan, which really needs to improve on the signage.
Italians mistook Matt for a visiting fashionista, while the rest of our party couldn’t quite make that claim.
Checked into our hotel in Bardolino, then visited the city of Verona for a couple of hours – checked out the arena, bought my 2010 Gambero Rosso guide in English, comics by Manara for Dave Griffin, and searched for serious balsamico.
Pizza and beer as a snack, lasagna with pesto for dinner – carbo loading for the show.
My cell phone and Peter’s windshield were the day’s casualty – Peter driving a bit too much like an Italian.
Thursday, April 8
Visited 11 old suppliers, as Matt had not met many of these folks face-to-face.
Scored a bit more devilishly good ITA666, 05 Tenuta San Vito, Madiere for the holiday season!
Nick Magnelli’s 05 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino was as accessible a young wine as I’ve tasted from him, and his 04 Riserva was nothing short of breathtaking.
Paolo Masi and the Castellanis continue to rule the Tuscan price/value ratio.
Today’s lowlight was our time at the Giarola stand, seven people, no two common languages, but we still believe in their wines.
Interesting $69.99 Passione, from Beccarello, Amarone-style in a Voss water bottle type package, but more for fun than business.
Fettucine with salmon for dinner in Bardolino.
Friday, April 9
Visited 18 suppliers and potential suppliers.
Lots of great wines: 09 Marrone Arneis, Dolcetto & 06 Barolo – Matt would have bought all of this for his personal use.
06 Salvano Barbaresco proved to be a steal, if the word “steal” can really apply to the Barbaresco category.
Would have purchased the entire 06 Icardi Barbaresco production on the spot if I didn’t have my calculator with me and if the Icardis hadn’t attempted to foist a Piedmont Tough Day Chardonnay knock off on us.
Pizza and beer for supper, carbo loading for the drive back to Rotterdam.
Saturday, April 10
Left our hotel in Bardolino at the crack of dawn, got Matt to Malpensa Airport on time, eventually arrived in Rotterdam at 10 PM.
Between preparing our Vinitaly follow up plan, we declared commercial Belgian, Swiss and Dutch chocolates, our finalists in each round, the winners.
Sunday, April 11
Remembered to pack Choco Miel and honey-based-soap from Weyns in Antwerp for my wife, plus some nice Dutch chocolates and some tacky ones sporting Rembrandt and Frans Hals paintings on the labels.
Couldn’t find any with Vermeer labels.
Disappointed with all of today’s whites except for the 09 Pouilly Fume from ever-reliable Katia Galiez at Domaine de Bel Air.
Found a couple more value priced Bordeaux rouge to consider, 06 Ch Latapie eleve en futs de chene and 08 Ch L’Escart, Bordeau Superieur.
All of the wines tasted from Le Cecche were masterful - Dolcetto, Barbera & Nebbiolo were like listening to Pops or Lady Day singing tin pan alley – interpretation transcends the material.
Finished “Bite Me” by Christopher Moore and most of “The Godfather of Kathmandu” by John Burdett on the flight back to Boston.