Alazar's 2006 Merlot base material was harvested on 12th of Oct and the sugar level was 26.5. It is fermented in stainless steel tanks, and after fermentation 25% was aged in French oak and 35% was aged in American oak for 6 months.
This was assembled to be the "significantly better than Hamilton" Merlot. When we prepared to bottle this, one component was unsatisfactory-to-nasty. I wanted to preserve the Clarksburg appellation and the "homage" to St Emilion and the old school CA Merlots that preceded the Merlot boom.
And I learned an ugly lesson that my choices were change the appellation to Lodi, or Yolo County or Sacramento or CA, none of which have the right cachet. So we replaced that component with some 07 Clarksburg Petite Sirah, my favorite blending varietal for Bordeaux Rouge varietals.
And we kept increasing the 07 Petite, as it was still improving the wine, but we crossed the vintage line beyond the % wiggle room. I liked the "amped up" wine enough to lose the vintage, but got to keep keep the Clarksburg, and still had miles to go before any varietal changes on the label.
2006 Deltetto, Langhe Arneis, Piedmont, Italy
Arneis is always way undervalued in the US, especially when compared to the best-selling categories of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Plus white wines from a region famous for its reds are often deliver better values. Arneis leterally translates to “rascal”, because the vines can be a bit stubborn to grow.
This Arneis obliterates the cliché that Italian whites are not serious, mainly light, clean, crisp and refreshing, usually with no oak. Plus it’s an ABC (anything but Chardonnay) from the Antonio Deltetto, the undisputed “emperor of Arneis”.
The wine is vibrant, textural and assertive, with plenty of personality – rich concentrated flavors of herbs and lemons, in equal parts. Classic beauty is always a better bet than rather than overpaying for current popularity – think Catherine Deneuve or Sophia Loren versus the whomever is the media’s bimbette of the week.
2007 El Salegar, Joven, Ribera del Duero, Spain
Spain is hot though the US dollar is not, so we have to pick our Spanish features extra carefully for our clients.
If Rioja is Spain’s Bordeaux, Ribera del Duero is Spain’s Burgundy. This item is a perfect representative of the current Spanish wine industry – more international (read as new world friendly) in style, better quality, more accessible when young, more food friendly, fruit not submerged by the oak as it ages. This is a house wine price alternative to the almost-see-God $50 September feature [SPA106], obviously with less time in oak. 100% Tempranillo, regionally named tinto fino or tinta del pais: Spain’s greatest varietal - high acidity, herbaceous olives & nuts flavors. Lush, vibrant, red velvet in a glass, with ages, will sacrifice the exuberance for profundity while it develops additional layers of complex flavors.
2004 Chateau du Piras, Premieres Cotes du Bordeaux, France
Bordeaux created the modern wine business world-wide, and despite of all the changes in the region, it remains number one in prestige. It is becoming increasingly rare for us to be able to offer house wine price Bordeaux that delivers the complete package.
This item exhibits terroir, here that forest floor quality that smacks of affordable elegance, breed and finesse, elevating those spicy, smoky, earthy black fruits notes. The wine was held back at the estate on their dime so it’s ready to enjoy now, upon release, but still exhibits bottle age potential.
One of the Cinq Cotes, this is an appellation where the smart shoppers and the locals go for values, coupled with Robert Parker’s opinion that 04 is the last affordable Bordeaux vintage. 51%/30%/19% Merlot/Caberent Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend isn’t just a sum of its parts, it’s a picture of this terroir in 2004, in each bottle. We chose to offer the 04 Piras because it pushed literally 200 other Bordeaux off our tasting tables.
2006 Jean Berteau, Cotes du Rhone, Cuvee Prestige, France
The Southern Rhone is a smart wine shopper’s area, the wines deliver accessibility, aging potential, value, coupled with a magnificent 2006 vintage.
Jean Berteau, the man, the myth, the legend is not just me speaking tongue-in-cheek. Everything he produces comes in this in the 18th century replica bottle with the big “B” in the center, which may be interpreted as the ego.
There really is a separate cuvee prestige, here it’s a modified Southern Rhone blend 85/10/5 Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre – a with-the-new-world-in-mind variation on traditional dominant Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend. Varietally, it could be labeled Syrah, and the sleek, smoky peppery back fruit flavors are tailor made for new world palates. This reminds me why the better California vintners & winemakers still use the Rhone as a model, not OZ, for their Syrah.
This resides in the Ultimate BBQ Wine category, but a personal favorite, unusual pair, is have it with grilled trout! The Berteau Cuvee Prestige beat all of the Cotes du Rhone satellites, Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages, at the table, in addition to plenty of more prestigious Southern Rhone appellations.
At Geerlings & Wade, we follow the most arduous, labor-intensive wine buying process in the nation. Our pool of California suppliers represents some of the finest vintners, winemakers and wineries working on the Left Coast. We have the resources and flexibility to consider for our clients existing market brands, custom bottlings, brands we’ve improved upon in some way, unknown wines, and wines blended or assembled under our own direction.
More than in any other category, our house brands, aka Signature Selections, exhibit the fruits (sorry) of our expertise and labor. Here we bottle the optimum wine values available at their price points. The right to become a Geerlings & Wade house brand producer is earned through rigorous blind tastings, plus the vintner, winemaker and their facility must demonstrate the flexibility for my team to be part of the production process, if necessary, every step of the way. And that right must be re-earned each vintage. As anyone who’s been there over time can testify, it’s far more difficult to repeat.
2007 Black Shadow, Syrah, California
Black Shadow is traditionally our own Syrah and Zinfandel label crafted by Philip Zorn and Brent Shortridge. If this wine were the model for the Aussies, Shiraz would still be the current vin du jour!
Mother Nature’s magnificent 2007 Central Coast fruit, fermented in stainless steel, malolactic completed in French oak (20% new), and barrel aged one year prior to bottling. Dark and dense while complex and beautifully balanced. Sleek and supple in the mouth. Blueberry, blackberry and pepper flavors, over vanilla and all spice, due to nicely integrated oak.
A touch of minerals present, just enough to remind you that this is an agricultural product. Other tasters identified dried black cherry, plum, molasses, tobacco and leather – perfect barbecue wine. This will become the thinking person’s house red for the duration.
2008 Mira Luna, Pinot Noir, California
Mira Luna is our “more serious” Burgundian varietals label created by Hossein Namdar and Bob Goyette. The final blending session for this "post-Sideways-affect" Pinot Noir took four of us 3 ½ hours!
The almost one-half Sonoma Coast fruit component delivers balanced deep black cherry flavors and spice. The similar percentage Central Coast component furnishes vif and intensity - vibrant, complex dark berries, with hints of leather and spice. The small but cost-effective Mendocino component is delicate and floral, violets and rose petals. I wish there was more of this fruit available, and not just because I’m a cheap bastard and worry over price.
This deep ruby Pinot boasts soft tannins, a satin-like texture, floral strawberry, cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors, backed by graham cracker with a touch of toasty oak. Complex and well-balanced, overall, the impression is "here’s one satisfying wine." The Bud Light marketing gurus beat me to the punch, however, as the difference here really is drinkability.
2005 San Valencia Winery Reserve Malbec, Mendocino, California
San Valencia Winery is our almost-too-good-to-be-true-deal California label from Shahin Shahabi, Dennis Patton and Jon Alexander-Hills.
Is Argentine Malbec still the current vin du jour, or is it Malbec, the wine grape? Argentina clearly benefits from varietal labeling – there was no Malbec madness in the US due to it being a part of the traditional Bordeaux blend. Even less Americans know the “black wine of Cahors”, in spite of the region’s recent educational blitzes.
When compared with Argentina, a stronger US dollar makes most Argentine Malbec sold here at least as much about price as it is about quality. But at the $15 and up price points, it becomes far more about value - does the wine deliver - and just like the Merlot boom of 15-20 years ago, Argentine Malbec at the most affordable price ranges has slipped. Supply and demand, Argentina’s fiscal strength and the world financial crisis have all eroded price/value ratios.
Most of all, I miss the display of affordable complexity – inky purple fruit juxtaposed against a delicate violets nose, followed by juicy, yet still rustic fruit – too many wines are now “homogenized”, lacking any sort of personality or dimension. What I am find more and more is that non-Argentine Malbecs often now clearly out-deliver the world market leader when at the same price.
Time to abandon the soapbox … the cost-effective Mendocino County fruit for this gem hails from one of the best vineyard sites in Sanel Valley, Southern Mendocino County. Here, the “reserve” on the label is not just a legal marketing term, as was we culled this lot out of a somewhat larger production that retails for approaching $30 per bottle - our San Valencia label, remember – feeling it has about a 10 year bottle age potential.
Small tank fermentation was the key, allowing the dense, inky purple-black color to emerge. An almost dainty floral nose leads into a hefty, slightly rustic (plenty of pepper) juicy, soft, silky mouthfeel bursting with black cherries, blackberries, anise, hazelnut and white chocolate. This Malbec will be magnificent - give the Argentines credit where credit is due – they know their beef - with a grilled steak, chimichurri sauce and fries.
2004 Brava Terra Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
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. Robert Skalli, Emma Swain, Josh Anstey, Michael Scholz, winemakers.
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.