Monthly Archives: April 2012

Argentina’s 2011 PHEBUS – Are my tastes expanding or is this an excellent Torrontés?

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2011 Phebus Torrontés

I recently came across this lovely wine during our Malbec and Other Sexy Wines of South America class at Total Wines and More.  Having recently written about the Torrontés varietal and in particular a Torrontés/Pinot Grigio blend, I continue to be on the lookout for a good example.

https://whineandcheersforwine.wordpress.com/?s=torrontes

A month ago I was “learning to appreciate” this varietal. Well today, or better yet last night, I believe I am there. This particular wine spoke to me during our class  and luckily I purchased 2 bottles. Regularly priced $9.99 but class price of $7.99 may have had something to do with it. I am so glad I did. This has to be the most delicate Torrontés I have tasted to date. Gone is the usual and almost overpowering strength of Lychee on the nose and palate.

My research shows there are actually 3 different Torrontés grapes. The one being reviewed here is the Torrontes Riojano; accounting for 18% of total white wine grapes produced in Argentina.  These Mendoza vines in particular average 10 years of age, harvested manually March 5-10 with meticulous sorting performed by hand prior to vinification. Fermentation [with yeast] is done in stainless tanks at a controlled temperature of 15 degrees C, with skin maceration during 8 hours.

PHEBUS wines are crafted at Fabre Montmayou Bodega using state of the art wine-making techniques. Diane and Herve Joyaux have owned this estate since 1999.

Pale in color with a pleasant bouquet I detected aromas of peach, pear, melon, and some citrus. Smooth and acidic on the palate I noted; pear, peach, honeysuckle, with lemon and grapefruit on the lingering finish. I found the flavors to be appealing, abundant and harmonious.

On-line I have seen reviews calling this wine “above average nearly excellent” and “excellent”.  I would have to whole heartedly agree and once again mention what a great value this is. This is perfect for those who might want an introduction to the Torrontés grape and I would add lovers of Sauvignon Blanc.

SALUD!

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Return of the Wine Diary-Chilensis, J Opi, Baron D’Arignac, Il Papavero

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This week I am returning to the Wine Diary of 2011. With all the new wines and related experiences as of late I find it difficult to go back and re-review last years selections. Yes, all 138 wines, go figure. For those of you who have not read my earlier Diary posts or need a recap, here you go:

https://whineandcheersforwine.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/is-my-wine-glass-half-empty-or-half-full-the-return-of-the-wine-diary/

Having gotten the bad ones out-of-the-way and not being a fan of negative energy I am ready to stress the positive with the category of SURPRISES. As the title implies, we did not know much or expect much from these wines but they quickly got our attention. Other categories will follow in future postings.

Surprises [4]:

The first on our list [in no particular order] is a Cinsault varietal from Languedoc Roussillon, France: 2009 Baron D’ Arignac Vin de Pays D’Oc.  I must admit that this choice was completely made on price.  It had me at $6.99 on sale as I walked through the isles of our local Whole Food Market. We found it to be very good fresh out of the bottle with no decanting needed. I actually noted GREAT SURPRISE! in my notes probably thinking it would be swill because of the price. Interestingly I have learned the following about this varietal; it is regularly used in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and in 1925 it was crossed with Pinot Noir by Stellenbosch University Professor A.I. Perold in trying to create a unique South African varietal, which became PinotageCharacteristics of the grape: low tannins, dark, spicy, slightly perfumey.

Next we’re off to Chile with what I originally noted as a “Chilean Surprise”.  The 2009 Chilensis Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, found at Total Wine and More for $9.99. Again I was most likely drawn to this choice by the fact that it was a RESERVA priced at $9.99. I am starting to see a $$ trend in the SURPRISE group having to do with price to taste ratio….My research shows that this corporate winemaker sources wines from different regions in Chile and markets them to the US. Chilensis wines are certified organic and sustainable. I noted; strong dark fruit on the nose and palate along with black pepper and spices.

On to Italy thanks to the Wall Street Journal Wine Club: Il Papavero Primitivo 2009. This Primitivo [which is the same as our Zinfandel] is one of winemaker Scipione Giuliani’s passions. The grapes come from 50-year-old vines in Puglia in southern Italy. This is one of my favorite selections provided to me through the WSJ Wine Club.  Priced at $13.99, this wine could easily be on my personal house wine list. For this rich, heavy red I detected; dark fruits such as raisins and plums, some oak and even what I would describe as cocoa.

Last but not least and thanks again to the WSJ Wine Club we arrive in Argentina for the 2009 J Opi Malbec; whose wine maker Rodolfo Sadler aka Opi won the Argentinean Red Trophy at the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards.  At $13.99 this wine is a very good value. Again, the taste to price ratio. Priced at $7.99 as a special when I got it; it is an incredible value and I should have purchased a case! This wine was full bodied, fruity [dark], with a bit of spice and a great rich color. It was a perfect match for our spaghetti and meatball dinner. Albeit not so much with our dessert of Goobers 🙂  I would describe it as very drinkable.

Until the next chapter of my Wine Diary returns; SALUD!

In honour of Malbec World Day; Argentina’s LAMADRID 2008 Malbec Reserva

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Argentina’s LAMADRID 2008 Malbec Reserva

In honour of Malbec World Day I am partially reposting part of an earlier blog post [see below]. This is one of my favorite Malbec’s and “the one” that made me a fan. I thought what a better way to celebrate April 17th! Unfortunately I am celebrating alone unless you count Miss Jane Doe our American Bulldog who is keeping me company on this special wine day. Luckily she was able to convince me that it was worth opening for a party of one. Good girl Jane.

My notes:

The color; a deep beautiful purple burgundy with lingering legs. On the nose I detected sweet dark fruit [plum, cherry], oak, vanilla, leather. On the palate I tasted; cloves, tobacco, black pepper, the same fruits noted above along with vanilla, casis and a herbaceousness/earthiness factor as it opened. The tannins solid and a nice long finish.

This wine [different vintages] is available in stores and on-line although admittedly harder to come by as it is discovered and particular vintages disappear forever. If you should come across it I recommend you partake. At $16-$19.00 it is a steal. This wine could easily be priced at twice as much but lets keep that to ourselves. SALUD!

LAMADRID Estate Wines

I consider this vineyard to be one of my best discoveries of 2011. Their 2008 production is highly regarded, often hard to find at this point. The good news is that the 2009’s now appearing on store shelves have been rated just as high. Guillermo García Lamadrid and Hector Durigutti, master winemaker and general manager are truly masters at what they do. Durigutti considered to be today’s wine maker with the midas touch in Argentina. He also has own name-sake line of Durigutti wines, although hard to find in the states I recently found some in Aventura FL and in Tryon NC of all places.

Guillermo García Lamadrid originally caught my attention in wine class because he originated from Cuba [my people!] and became a successful winemaker when he migrated to Argentina via Puerto Rico. I am sure there is a very interesting story there. I have been lucky enough to have tasted quite of few of their wines; Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon [$14.00], RESERVE Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, Cab. Franc [$18.00] and the GRAN RESERVE Malbec  [$35.00]. My personal favorite is the RESERVA Malbec 2008 and I hope to be writing about and drinking more of all of them in the near future.

Chile’s Gran Valle de Niebla Reserve Pinot Noir 2011

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This wine from Chile’s Rapel Valley came to us via the Wall Street Journal Wine Club. Pricing on-line through WSJ and other sources averages about $13-14.00 per bottle with discounts for larger quantities. This wine in particular was awarded the bronze at the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2011.

I continue to be a big Chilean wine fan. Bordered by the Andes, the Atacama desert , the Pacific Ocean and the Antarctic; Chile is considered to have great conditions for growing grapes.

Gran Valle’s winemaker is four time Chilean Winemaker of the year; Adolfo Hurtado. An impressive pedigree indeed in addition to his environmentally progressive methods in the vineyard. The wine bottle notes state that “he even uses a flock of geese to help protect vines from pests”!

Upon decanting I noted ripe fruit on the nose with a more specific red fruits as it opened. I also recognized a minerality that made me wonder for the first time what soil the vines were grown in; volcanic, rocky?

About 40 minutes after decanting its light texture gave flavors of plum, cherry and strawberry on the palate along with a hint of earthiness and bitterness.  I believe the slight bitterness may be due to the wines youthfulness; 2011 vintage. A little maturity should balance this out nicely.

Also noted were nice slow-moving legs on the glass and a delicious long finish on this beautifully colored, garnet with a hint of purple/violet Pinot Noir.  I am looking forward to seeing what happens with the second bottle I have in my wine cellar [yes, still the guest room] long down the road when I have a 2nd taste. Well, I say long down the road but that could actually be next week 🙂  I hereby promise to put the second bottle in my SAVE pile in the hopes I will be able to hold out. So far so good with others; I actually do have some bottles I have now been holding for a year. A year seems to be my record though….

Final note: Would I drink this wine again; YES. Would I serve it to friends and guests; YES. Would I buy some more; YES. Would I go out my way to buy this wine……this is where I arrive at the proverbial fork in the road. I would consider it a very good everyday wine should I have it available.  But, there are so many other good to great wines even at this price point, that the adventurer in me would want to keep discovering.  SALUD!

Columbia Valley, Washington State-Gordon Brothers 2007 Merlot

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Gordon Brothers Merlot $22.99 retail/$17.99 on sale 

We came to discover this beautiful wine at a recent Pacific Northwest Total Wine and More class. It turned out to be one of the few highlights from this class. Not because of the wine choices but unfortunately due to an unorganized substitute instructor. In fact this was one of my favorite classes last year. I quickly remembered the difference a good teacher can make on their students. Luckily we had wines like this to make up for it and the realization of how very lucky we are to have a real pro usually at the helm.

I was surprised to learn that Washington State is located at the same latitude with the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions and that Washington State’s growing region is actually a dessert with irrigation required.  With great value wines coming from this area; Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals have really taken off due in part to Washington’s volcanic soil.

Gordon Brothers Family Vineyards are a boutique producer of hand crafted wines. Family owned and operated, estate grown and produced. This powerful Merlot vintage, aged in small american and french barrels, has been rated by Wine Enthusiast magazine at 91 points.
Deep dark ruby in color, full-bodied, with rich aromas of spice, black cherry and even flower petals, may be considered medium bodied by most but I say it is more full-bodied with a great long finish. I believe this to be due to the wine maturing since 2007. The medium body may have existed a few years ago but its newfound richness is all present day.
Great…., just what I needed; an excuse to open my last bottle in the wine cellar [better known as the guest room] or go out and buy some more before they sell out!  This wine has made me a Merlot fan, SALUD!
Online notes:
Columbia Valley, Washington Another classic Washington State Merlot from this superb . Featuring rich aromas and flavors of black cherry, spice and rose petal, balanced with lush creamy oak on the smooth finish. Enjoy with chicken, duck or beef dishes. [NOTE: Also goes great with a vegetarian brown rice casserole and pizza!]

Argentina’s Innovacion Torrontes-Pinot Grigio 2010 by Santa Julia

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Santa Julia Innovacion Torrontes-Pinot Grigio  2010

I discovered this wine last year while shopping at Whole Foods Market.  Three things made it jump out at me;

The fact that it was a Torrontes blend. The price, on sale at $10.99. The size, it is packaged in; a 1 litre bottle instead of the usual 750ml or 1.5 litre.

Appreciating everything wine from Argentina I had not yet come across a Torrontes blend. I actually still have not seen any others but I admit I have not gone out of my way to search them out either. Over the last year we have taste tested various Torrontes and I must admit that for me it is a varietal that I am learning to appreciate. In other words not love at first pour.

The taste is different from any other wine I have ever had. I would describe it as having substantial minerality, some petrol flavoring but mostly the standout for me is honeysuckle and lychee both in taste and nose. As stated before; it is an acquired taste. One that I am actually coming to like which brings me back to the topic at hand the Innovacion blend.  The grapes are separately fermented in stainless steel,  then blended prior to bottling by this Zuccardi family owned vineyard.

This is a perfect match! So much so that I would easily consider having this stocked all the time as a “go to” white wine. The sweet factor of the Torrontes grape is nicely balanced with the acidity of the crisp Pinot Grigio. A perfect weekday wine, a great picnic wine and best yet a refreshing libation for the too soon approaching summer.  Combine all this with the agreeable price and 1 litre size and I would say you have a home run!  SALUD!

Online notes:

The aroma is typical Torrontes: grapefruit, tropical fruits, pineapple, with  floral notes. The flavor is grapefruit, pears, pineapple, a hint of vegetal.

This 90% Torrontes – 10% Pinot Grigio blend is made of 100% sustainably farmed grapes. The Torrontes is from Maipu vineyards, Mendoza and the Pinot Grigio is from Santa Rosa vineyards, Mendoza. The nose is complex and aromatic with notes of roses, orange peel and chamomile. There are also ripe fruit notes, such as peach and pear with notes of citrus. This wine has a soft and fresh entry, unctuous. It is elegant and balanced.