14 October, 2013

California does Barbera.

We're all in love with Italian wines.

From Nebbiolo & Vermentino in Piedmont to Nero D'Avola in Sicily & Fiano in Campania, Italy makes some of the most diverse wines and have been doing so for THOUSANDS of years, but it wasn't until the Greek colonization (800BC) that vinification was widely introduced to Italy.

Things stayed steady until the Romans defeated the Carthaginians in the 2nd century BC and winemaking flourished throughout Italy. Interestingly, the Romans outlawed winemaking outside of Italy during this time to increase it's scarcity and, in fact, used wine to trade for goods and slaves.

Onward a couple of thousand years to about 1852 and both an exodus to the West by Italians as well as founding winemakers seeking out further varieties of wine grapes and the Italian diversity makes it's
way to Sonoma County.

Lucky for us, there's been much in the way of both progress in vinification as well as an expansion of Italian native grapes. More than just Zinfandel (Primitivo) more than 20 varieties are grown in California and more specifically, Sonoma County.

Nico Wines is a recent (2006) addition to the Sonoma County winery list, but one that's gone deep with their focus on Italian varieties.

Their just released 2012 Barbera is the newest addition to their cellar and it's quite a stunner! In Italy, Barbera was typically harvested a couple of weeks earlier than the more prized Nebbiolo and it was usually what you drank while waiting for the Barolos to age.

No longer playing 2nd fiddle, this Barbera is a delicately crafted of 100% Barbera fruit and comes it at 13.9% abv, allowing it to play nice with meats like duck, boar, chicken as well as salmon. It's extremely well balanced front to back on the palate and presents quite unassumingly with lovely subdued notes of raspberries, currents as well as nice umami textures & tastes like delicate crimini mushrooms.

We enjoyed this with pumpkin ravioli, troffi al pesto as well a grass-fed steak at Riviera Restaurant in Sonoma County keeping it all local.

This, and all of Nico Wines are available at their online store.

2012 Nico Wines Barbera
Retail: $22
Grade: A

(note: this sample was provided to us at no cost)

10 October, 2013

The Man from Manchuela

Deep in the Castilla - La Mancha region lies the D.O. of Manchuela. It's not the most well known D.O. in Spain, let alone for Tempranillo, but from Virgen de las Nieves Bodegas comes a 100% Tempranillo that keeps up just fine with crianzas from Rioja.  (although, I'm not certain of the aging of this bottling)

This Temp is well oaked and with a good bit of tanin, will suit your palate just fine with grilled meats as to be expected.

It's dark blue and blackberry fruit profile is well pronounced, but not over done when decanted for 15 minutes.

I suggest pairing this with grilled fowl, perhaps a guinea hen, some Cabrales cheese, jamon and figs or a pintxo of garbonzo beans and chorizo.

2011 Artezones de Cenziate Tempranillo
Retail: under $25
Grade: B

(note: this bottle was provided at no cost as a sample)

Pinot That Fits the Bill...and the Budget

We're always on the lookout for value and while we're all for diversity in grape varieties, Pinot Noir is not uncommon, but is always a favorite. Problem is, GOOD Pinot is usually not available for around $20....and this is due to, in part, grape prices that are typically 35-50% higher than other varieties.

No worries!

The folks at Don and Sons (a brand of Don Sebastiani and Sons) have found a way to tackle this...and with Sonoma Coast grapes! They've done this, at least in my opinion, by using fruit from the Petaluma Gap, an area that's very close to the Pacific Ocean where temperatures inland are moderated by the cool, coastal air.

Their 2010 and 2011 Sonoma Coast Sonoma Signature Pinot Noir is a very good choice for an everyday Pinot and for those who like their Pinot on the more balanced, less forward side, is even better!

With fruit as its strength, winemaker Greg Kitchens allows the subtleties of the Petaluma Gap to speak thru the wine. Again, subdued slate, graphite matching with red fruit flavors of Bing cherry and raspberry provide an elegant opportunity for pairing with Pinot favorites like duck and salmon as well as pork Provencal as well as simple and delicious roasted chicken.

Widely distributed, it's available thru the Don and Sons website but can be found at better prices thru 1000corks.com.

This is one of the best QPR wines we've ever reviewed.

2010 or 2011 Don and Sons Sonoma Signature Pinot Noir
Retail: $25 (found as low as $15)
Grade: A

(Note: This bottle was provided as a sample to us at no cost)

For a Reuilly Good Time, call....

While it's starting to move into fall here in Sonoma County, we're still having 80 degree days and that's plenty warm for anyone to enjoy a bit of rose'.

Rose' is wonderful, but I'm a bit particular. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet...none of those are particularly interesting to me in their rose' form. Wines from these varieties and many others are often  "saignee" wines and don't bring the flavor or balance in which we find delight in purposeful rose', that is, wine grapes that are picked specifically for the purpose of making rose. Picked earlier and at lower brix than grapes destined for red wine, purposeful roses are a thing of beauty and often fetch prices nearly $50....and they're well worth it!

So, while that's not really helping us here and our $13-$27 range, we've managed to find something quite interesting. The 2012 Reuilly Pinot Gris Rose from Denis Jamain's Domaine de Reuilly. For those not familiar, Reuilly is an AOC in the Loire Valley where only 3 grape varieties are grown (in Reuilly, not the Loire of course): Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.

While this rose has a great pale salmon color reminiscent of it's relatives from Provence, make no mistake that this is not Mourvedre/Grenache based wine. It's Pinot Gris and I would guess has some Sauvignon Blanc blended with its hints of grapefruit and kafir lime on the front palate and clean, racy finish.

If your weeknight or weekend plans call for dining al fresco, I recommend you try this wine. Imported by Kermit Lynch, it's available widely and you can find it here, courtesy of 1000corks.com.

2012 Domaine de Reuilly Rose
Retail: $18
Grade: A-