Meeting Girard Winery’s Marco DiGiulio

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In-store tasting WFMNMIA

 

They had me at “Girard”.  Recently I was asked by a wine distributor if I’d have an interest in hosting a Meet the Winemaker event for our store, Whole Foods Market North Miami.  Said winemaker would be in town for other events and was interested in doing a tasting/bottle signing event. Since we’d done well with other similar events the offer was put on the table. It was true, we’d had great success in the recent past with winemakers in our store.  Our customers and team members truly enjoyed the one on one interaction and learning experience of these “Rock Star” wine moments.

 

Bottle Signing

 

So far so good, but the question was being put to me during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve trifecta of shopping and retail event madness.  My head was spinning. I recall I mustered the strength to ask “can you tell me who it is?” and the distributor replied Marco Digiulio of Girard Winery. I am sure the distributor went on with a short history of the winery and their wines. All I heard was “Girard“……

 

 

Artistry poured WhineCheersWine

Girard just happens to be the producer of one of my favorite wines: Artistry. A consistently excellent fruit rich yet earthy Napa red blend that I consider to be one of my special occasion go-to wines.  In fact when I was hired by Whole Foods as a Specialty Beverage Buyer and asked to list my top wines for the department you can bet Girard was on there. At the time I was able to bring in their Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Artistry. Presently, we also stock their Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. On my in-store wish list is the Petite Sirah, presently out of stock and the Old Vine Zinfandel which knocked my socks off.

 

Girard Tasting 2015

 

Whole Foods NMIA CalendarMeeting Marco, yes we are now on a first name basis although some refer to him as Girard’s “Chief Wine Overlord”, was a wonderful opportunity for me to taste and compare earlier, current and new vintages. It was also my first time trying the white wines of Girard. Wines I can now recommend to our customers as I tell them what style of wine-making went into these productions. Stories I picked up from Girard’s Chief Wine Overlord himself.  ¡SALUD!

Wine Spectator Top 100 – #45 tikal Patriota 2012 Malbec Bonarda Blend

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TIKALtikal Patriota 2012 Malbec Bonarda

Once again I was excited to discover a recent 2014 WINE SPECTATOR Top 100 selection among our shelves at Whole Foods Market North Miami. This Ernesto Catena (the eldest son of Nicolás Catena of Catena Zapata) wine had been selling briskly ever since I brought it in a few months ago but now that the word is out I am constantly refilling our shelves. Here’s hoping it continues to be available and does not sell out quickly as vinos tend to do once praised with this kind of attention. Luckily for us earlier vintages have also been rated in the 90+ range and deservedly so.

Ernesto Catena Vineyards info: Tikal is owned by Ernesto Catena and is named after his son. Ernesto spent his childhood in the vineyards of Mendoza among wine-growers and local pundits. Since then, he has experienced a kaleidoscope of cultures, living in New York, Buenos Aires, Berkeley, Cambridge (MA), Milan and London. But his heart remains in his homeland of Argentina (where he now lives), with its natural beauty of mountains, streams and vineyards, its wines, and its people who hold a special passion for living.

Luis Reginato is the winemaker at Tikal behind the 2012 vintage. He has been with TIKAL and the Catena family since 2002 overseeing various wine lines.  In the 10 plus years he has developed a reputation of having a Midas-touch producing wines consistently rated in the 90+ range.  Usually coming in under $25.00, I like the fact that these wines are not exaggeratedly priced. The Tikal Patriota can currently be found for $18-$23.00.

I have long been a fan of the Malbec and Bonarda varietals and am excited to see such blends increasing in the marketplace. Some even including Syrah. This one in particular comes in at 60% Malbec and 40% Bonarda from Vista Flores and La Vendimia Mendoza. Aged 12 months in 70% French and 30% American oak.

My notes included red fruit [strawberry, raspberry] on the nose along with vanilla spiciness. On the palate the fruit flavors turned darker [plum, blackberry], chocolate, with the oak spiciness and earthiness at mid-palate and beyond. For me I think this wine needed to age a bit in the bottle or decant for longer. Although I started to imbibe as soon as the cork was popped, I did not note a varied difference at the 1 hour mark. Unfortunately I was not able to give the wine more time to develop which I feel it would have. Did I enjoy it? Wholeheartedly yes.  Will I continue to recommend this wine and praise its accolades? Yes again. But, the next time I serve this wine you can bet it will be decanted for over an hour or if patience allows I’ll be drinking it 1-2 years from now when I believe it will be at its true peak. ¡SALUD!

 

Winemaker’s Notes

Deep reddish purple with aromas of bright berry/cherry fruit. Like swallowing a whole bowl of mixed ripe berries at once. Big body yet very balanced, with luscious layers of raspberry, cherry, and cocoa flavors. Just a hint of baking spice at the end brings it all together. Pairs well with grilled meats such as beef and pork, smoked ham, and even pizza with meat toppings. Incredibly fun to drink!

WS Tasting Note

Tikal Patriota 2012 is a blend of 60% Bonarda and 40% Malbec hand harvested with no fining and no filtering and aged 70% in French oak (40% new) and 30% in 2nd use American oak. This Argentine red offers intense layered flavors of raspberry, cherry, cocoa, with a hint of spice, full body and excellent balance with a long finish. “A rich red, packed with concentrated flavors of blackberry, dark plum and mocha, featuring plenty of dark chocolate notes. Offers a ripe texture, with creamy accents and hints of savory herb on the long finish.” -Wine Spectator (91 Points)

Wine Spectator Top 100 – #8 Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir

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Brewer Clifton PNBrewer Clifton – 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

 

It seems I picked the perfect winter night, for Miami that is, to pop open the cork on this beautiful wine. Picture it; a day off, a clear night, temperature in the upper 50’s maybe breaking 60, windows open, outdoor fire pit roaring and the smell of roasting chicken flowing through the house.

I had been biting at the bit to try this wine ever since the Wine Spectator Top 10 wine list was released and I discovered we had this particular vintage on the shelves at Whole Foods. Let’s just say we didn’t have it for long.  Before I knew it our stock was depleted but luckily not before I had set aside a bottle or two for myself.

The one drawback to this perfect setting was the fact that I was drinking alone. I do not recall the exact circumstances but my better half would be arriving later and our beloved Miss Jane the American Bulldog didn’t count. Upon serving my first pour, taking in the multitude of aromas and taking my first sip I got the urge to start inviting others over! This had to be shared, I couldn’t be selfish. My mad texting was to no avail, my nearby wine loving crew were all unfortunately predisposed. Go figure, dinner time on a weeknight.  We’ve always joked about “drinking and dialing” but in this case the drinking hadn’t really started!

My wine tasting brought about another interesting reaction. As I reviewed my notes, at the top of the list: “wanted to drink immediately!”. Now I can’t say I haven’t felt that way before but it doesn’t happen all that often and I can’t believe I actually wrote it down.

My [other] notes;

Nose: Fragrant!, leggy on the glass [Alc. 14.5%], rich red fruit, leather, strawberry, blue/blackberry, dark fruit as it opens, earthiness under the fruit,

Palate: Fruit forward perfection, with spice at the back end,  smooth up front with alcohol kick at the end [needs to open or age to soften], perfumy; lavender, licorice.

I can see why this wine is receiving the accolades that it has. As per the tasting notes provided by Brewer – Clifton the grapes for this wine are 100% Pinot Noir and come from two of their estate vineyards: 3-D and Machado.  For more information on the winery or winemakers check out Prince of Pinot Pinofile or the Brewer Clifton website.

I say, if you can find this wine BUY IT. It is an incredible value at under $40.00 and should age beautifully should you have the patience for that kind of thing. Me and my second bottle? I will be popping that cork as soon as my wine loving friends can fit me into their busy schedules. I guess more importantly when I can fit them into mine because I will be bringing the wine!  ¡SALUD!

 

Wine Spectator:

94 Points. Pure, rich and vivid, with snappy wild berry, pomegranate, lavender, black tea and mint notes, ending with firm tannins and a stemmy edge, lending traction to the palate. Drink now through 2023. 1,226 cases made.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

92 Points. The 2012 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills is a beautiful effort that has a tinge of Burgundian flair in its forest floor, licorice and black cherry driven personality. Medium-bodied, rounded, supple and with serious focus and cut, it’s a great value to enjoy over the coming 5-7 years.

Top 10 Wines – 2014

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TOP 10 Wines Picked by You

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As 2014 comes to a speedy end it is time to let the Whine and Cheers readers decide what the TOP wines of the year were for them. With close to 40,000 hits it’s interesting to see which wines are being researched the most.

Even more compelling to me is where these searches are coming from. Listed below at the end of this post you’ll find the TOP 15 countries [out of 96!] where searches were initiated leading them to Whine and Cheers for Wine.  For those wonderingRepublic of Tanzania came in at number 16!

As the drum-roll begins I have to admit that one post in particular wins the gold star for most hits all year-long. No matter the day, the week or the month, wine drinkers are intrigued and their attention peaked. The honor belongs to Australia’s 19 CRIMES Red Blend. Wonderfully marketed, its fan base continues to grow.

BEERCAMP@WCW2014For this TOP 10 wine list it will be exactly that, wines not themes. But it is intriguing to note that Beer with;  My 12 Days of Beer Camp, along with Winemaker Visits  B.R. Cohn Visits Whole Foods and Wine Clubs;  Hit or Miss the Wall Street Journal Wine Club would have made the TOP 10 otherwise.   So here we go….

 The Whine and Cheers For Wine Top 10 of 2014 picked by the general wine researching public!

 

Guilty! 19 Crimes

The Luck of the Blends – The Dreaming Tree Crush by Steve Reeder & Dave Matthews

HANDS Cabernet Sauvignon – Robertson, South Africa 

THE SHOW Pinot Noir on the road – from Chile to California

Joel Gott Zinfandel – 2011 vs. 2009

APOTHIC RED – 2010 Winemakers Blend

Wine Discovery of the Week – DiamAndes 2012 Perlita Malbec-Syrah

SALDO –The Prisoner Wine Company

Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

Tablao Red Wine Navarra 2012

with 2 others close behind:

Honig Napa 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – My First Wine of 2014

Revisiting Trivento’s Amado Sur Red Blend

 

Just as with the different countries visiting our site I am glad to see a nice variety of wines and varietals represented on this TOP list: Argentina, Napa, California, Spain, Bordeaux, Chile, South Africa and Australia.

No real common denominator other than the fact they were all found here by you along with others from around the globe.  Our world being brought together one wine at a time….. ¡SALUD! 

THE SHOW 2012  Diamandes Perlita @WCW2014EWM_SaldoZinfChateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

 

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SALDO – The Prisoner Wine Company

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whineandcheersforwine.com

This wine has been a house favorite for quite a few years. I do not remember exactly how I came to discover it but most likely the introduction was made by a certain Zinfandel loving pair we call neighbors and great friends. Gotta love it when friends and wine come together.

Originally from Dave Phinney the winemaker/founder for The Prisoner / Orin Swift wines. SALDO is now produced by The Prisoner Wine Company since the sale of the company in 2009. From TPWC:

When we took ownership of The Prisoner and Saldo in 2009 from Orin Swift, we knew assembling the right team would be essential. With more than a decade of winemaking experience at Ravenswood crafting Zinfandel, Jen Beloz was the ideal person to take the lead. In order to remain true to the wine’s original style and vision, Jen worked alongside Dave Phinney, founder of The Prisoner, for the first two vintages.

Interestingly many wine lovers and fans of these wines think that Orin Swift is a real person. In fact the name was created by Dave Phinney himself. Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift his mother’s maiden name.

saldoBefore SALDO the wine gets you hooked, the bottle label or lack thereof grabs your attention. I love the minimalism of the old-fashioned, retro for most, hand embossed label. Customers enjoy not only looking at it but touching and reliving their memories of making their own labels.

From TPWC: The word “saldo” has various meanings throughout the romance languages of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. In Spanish, it mainly refers to “balance on hand,” and sometimes it can also be interpreted “from here and there.”

Most recently vino and friendship crossed paths again and I got to enjoy the 2011 vintage SALDO at a local Miami Beach restaurant with an out-of-town friend. Once I saw it on the wine menu, and well priced at that, the decision was made. This rich, velvety, medium bodied, fruit forward blend of 83% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 6% Syrah paired beautifully with dishes such as; Ropa Vieja [Cuban shredded beef], Oxtail, Beef Tenderloin, grilled brussels sprouts, cheese grits, macaroni and cheese and even tostones [fried plantains]. Heck, it drank deliciously by itself.

whineandcheersforwine.com

Winemaker Notes:

The 2011 Saldo has an intense ruby color and bold aromas of dark berry fruit, blueberry pie, cardamom and baking spice. The entry is rich and full, and leads into a broad mid palate with concentration and density, backed by lively acidity. The texture is soft and velvety, with polished tannins. The finish is long with persistent notes of chocolate, roasted coffee bean and vanilla spice.

I like the consistency SALDO has shown along the way since first produced in 2007. I recommend it regularly at our store and it has become a customer favorite.  This wine is perfect for not only the Zin lovers and grill-masters out there but also for fans of big bold medium bodied, full flavored red blends. ¡SALUD!

B.R. Cohn Winery visits Whole Foods Market

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B.R. Cohn Winery

 

I recently had the pleasure of working side by side with Dan Cohn: CEO of B.R. Cohn Winery based out of Sonoma Valley California.  Dan spent a few hours sharing the wines of B.R. Cohn with the Whole Foods Market North Miami Specialty team and all guests lucky or smart enough to stop in and visit. Our department became quite the happening spot [admittedly more than usual] thanks to his great outgoing personality. Entertaining groups or one on one Dan made sure you found “your new favorite wine” and he had the product to back it up.

 

B.R. Cohn Winery, one of only three still family owned Sonoma wineries, was founded in 1984 by Bruce Cohn [father of Dan] after having bought the land ten years earlier and during that time selling the grapes to other wineries. Per their web-site:

After selling wine grapes for many years to August Sebastiani and Gundlach Bundschu and seeing the numerous awards the wines with fruit sourced from the Olive Hill Estate were receiving, Bruce took the advice of good friend and mentor Charlie Wagner from Caymus Winery and began producing his own wines from the Olive Hill Estate in 1984. Charlie bestowed the greatest honor upon the winery, permitting the use of Caymus’ trademarked “Special Selection” on the best lots from B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Estate.

As if that were not enough Bruce Cohn has managed the Rock group The Dobbie Brothers since 1970 and is still enjoying life in the music business;

Always looking for ways to give back to his community, Bruce brought his two life passions together in 1987 by inaugurating the B.R. Cohn Charity Fall Music Festival. Every year, wine lovers and music fans alike flock to the Olive Hill Estate to revel in the beautiful wine country while enjoying top music acts. The proceeds from the concert benefit many local children and veteran charities as well larger national charity organizations.

I must admit that prior to our in-store event I had not had the pleasure of tasting these wines. Luckily for me and many who partook what better way to get introduced.  We featured five wines and each one charmed.

B.R. Cohn Sangiacomo Chardonnay

  • Best of Class & Double Gold ~ Sonoma County Harvest Fair (2013)
  • 93 Points ~ WineReviewOnline.com (2013)

This Chardonnay is made from grapes grown at the Sangiacomo Vineyard in the Carneros Region of the southern Sonoma Valley. This wine is rich and concentrated with aromas of tropical fruit, pear, apricot, and lemon meringue surrounded by a bouquet of toasty oak, vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut.

B.R. Cohn 2012 Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon 

  • 94 Points, Gold 2014 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition
  • 90 Points – Beverage Dynamics

A blend of select hillside vineyards in Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake Counties and our own Olive Hill Estate Vineyard. Individual vineyard lots are fermented and aged separately. Complex and full, rich aromas of plum, cassis and black cherry are accompanied by a bouquet of the finest French oak, cedar, cola, anise, vanilla, and nutmeg. On the palate,  a big rich Cabernet with luscious flavors of dried berry and cherry, ample tannin, and a long finish.

B.R. Cohn Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 4 Stars – Restaurant Wine “The Gold Label bottling is intensely flavored, full bodies, and lightly tannic, with firm acidity, and pronounced eucalyptus mint character (with overtones of black cherry, cassis, red licorice, spicy oak, and cooked meat). Very long finish. Can be aged further. Aged in French oak barrels.

A unique blend of only our best lots from Napa and Sonoma, coupled with select vineyard blocks from the B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Estate Vineyard. Full-bodied rich Cabernet Sauvignon with aromas and flavors of currant, plum, black cherry wrapped in oaky spice and cedar. This is a big, luscious Cabernet, balanced with firm tannin, ample acidity, and a long warm finish.

B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Estate 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 98 Points, Best of California, Best of Class, Double Gold 2014 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition

Single vineyard. This wine has pronounced aromas and flavors of plum, black currant, and cherry. Luscious berry and cherry flavors fill the palate, and silky tannins follow through to a warm, lasting finish. As always, this exceptional vintage was fermented in small lots to
ensure the character of each part of the Olive Hill Estate Vineyard. 

B.R. Cohn 2010 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel

  • 90 Points, Silver – California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition
  • Gold  – Orange County Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition
  • Best of Class San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Produced from grapes selected from the finest quality vineyards in the Sonoma Valley. This combination yields a blend of berry and cherry aromas mingled with the bouquet of creamy vanilla custard and a hint of peppercorn and clove. The Zinfandel is full-bodied and
warm with a long smooth berry flavored finish.

As I mentioned to Dan that night I was truly impressed with all five wines we tasted. Across the board I would recommend each one of them to our customers.  My favorites? If I had to narrow it down the Silver Label Cabernet produced with grapes from three vineyards and the single vineyard Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon were my highlights and somehow ended up in my shopping basket!

We had a great response to this event. Dan Cohn, who by the way has a Rock’n signature for bottle signings, kept us all entertained with his wine stories. More importantly customers continue to come back for more of his wine.  ¡SALUD! 

 

 

Taking THE SHOW Pinot Noir on the road – from Chile to California

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THE SHOW 2012THE SHOW 2012 California Pinot Noir

Fun fact: I discovered this wine at a local Whole Foods Market a couple of years prior to being employed by them.  I still remember the moment because I was excited to find a Chilean version of a varietal I enjoyed. Now as a Wine Buyer for Whole Foods I get to turn customers on to this reasonably priced wine on a regular basis.

As per my earlier post [see below], this wine caught my attention because it was from Chile. Fast forward a few years: the production of The Show Pinot Noir has moved to California. I have to admit I was a bit concerned at first and maybe even shied away from it for a while fearing a disappointment.  Soon afterwards at one of our many in-store wine tasting events the opportunity arose and we put on THE SHOW.  Both the vendor, who had the same reservations, and I were pleasantly surprised to find this Pinot Noir still as bold and delicious as we remembered. More importantly customers kept coming back for more.

Now it’s time for the true test. A private wine tasting for one at home. Was THE SHOW from California really as good as its Chilean counterpart?  Cork popped and wine served I swirled, sniffed, sipped and took notes prior to rereading my original review. Here we go:

Light bodied as expected from most Pinot Noirs. Earthiness up front on the nose with fruit in the background [plum].  On the palate I detected dark fruit with wood, leather on the mid-palate and red fruit and spice at the finish.

I recall the Chilean version being richer and heavier bodied. Similarities? Bold and flavorful? Yes. But we have to keep in mind that not only are we comparing a wine made in two different countries but also two different vintages. That said I am sure the winemakers have their recipe down for keeping this wine as consistent as possible from year to year.

At under $20 and usually even under $15 THE SHOW Pinot Noir from California is perfect for those who enjoy this fruity varietal with some power. Light bodied? Yes. Light in flavor? Not even close. ¡SALUD!

 

 

2012 Winemaker notes:

The Show Pinot Noir has aromas of ripe plum, dark cherry and raspberry followed by flavors of earthy truffle, blackberry, cranberry, white pepper and spice. The wine has smooth tannins, a velvety texture and a long, lingering finish.

Grapes for The Show Pinot Noir are sourced from prime vineyards in California’s prestigious sonoma Coast and mendocino AVAs. sonoma Coast contains more than 500,000 acres primarily along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean, and extends from san Pablo Bay to the border of mendocino County. Pinot Noir from these regions balance elegance and a sense of place with rich and complex fruit. These wine-growing areas bring dark fruit character and smooth tannins to The show Pinot noir. aged in French oak barrels, this 100% Pinot Noir is a rich and powerful, mouth-watering wine.

 

THE SHOW and tell… 2010 Pinot Noir from Leyda Valley Chile

After recently reading about how promising the Pinot Noir’s from Chile were this lover of South American wines and Pinot Noirs particularly from the Pacific Northwest had his new assignment.

As per previous blogs I’ve always had a problem finding reasonably priced full-bodied Pinot Noirs. Seems my first mistake was starting with $40.00+ wines from Oregon. They were fantastic! What I would call a WOW. For some reason the lower end Pinot Noirs from same regions although likeable lack that WOW factor and for those thinking I may be influenced by the price I should add that I did not know the prices at the time of tasting. I’ve tried the same varietal at $20 or less from France, California, Australia/New Zealand and again; likeable but no WOW’s. My search for an affordable under $20 [heck under $15 even better] full-bodied, flavorful Pinot Noir is  ongoing.

This brings us to THE SHOW Pinot Noir from Chile. After reading the before mentioned articles I happened to come across this wine at our local Whole Food Market. I think it may have picked me but in actuality it was the only Chilean Pinot Noir they stocked. Fate steps in, even better it was on sale for about $10.99. The retail price seems to be closer to $16.00.

At decanting I must admit I was impressed.  My exact first thought was “red berry-licious” which doesn’t actually come to mind very often. As I poured the color varied from red to deep garnet. My next thought was ” I am loving the nose on this!”  I detected; fig, guava, plum, strawberry and cherry with an earthiness that turned to leather as it opened. I decanted for an hour but could have easily started drinking right then and there.  I also noted that this wine tastes just like it smells which doesn’t actually happen all that often to me.

This is a wine I will be coming back to, it made a good impression on me. It may not be a WOW such as my beloved LACHINI, COEHLO Paciencia etc. but it definitely added a bit of a WOW factor to our Wednesday night supper at home with friends.  I wonder how it tastes on Thursdays? :)  SALUD!

Winemaker Notes:

The cool winds (from the Humboldt Current) keep the fruit yields naturally to a minimum, giving us wines that have a lot of depth and rich concentration.  That depth is balanced by the refreshing acidity, silky tannins, and good minerality.  The aromatics are of pie spice, wild cherries, red fruit