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Picture It! 1924

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1924

Gnarly Head’s 1924 Double Black Red Wine Blend is an ode to the days of Prohibition. As per the label: “wine’s darkest hour when it was deemed illegal”. Luckily for us, the year 1924 was also when this winery set down their wine roots.

I recently discovered this Limited Edition Gnarly Head production in our wine department at Whole Foods. My beverage buyer had decided to bring it in and create a small display. After sampling this wine, we may want to go bigger.

Having enjoyed Gnarly Head wines, mostly Zinfandel, this Lodi California blend caught my eye. The frosted bottle didn’t hurt either. The fact that it is presently priced under $10 pretty much decided it for me right then and there. Tonight’s wine was chosen.

Slightly chilled to room temperature, remember I live in the tropics, this wine poured a dark rich garnet purple color. The nose boomed with power and excitement of dark fruit such as; blackberry, fig, blueberry, raisin with a bit of cocoa thrown in. The palate was pretty much the same with a bit more chocolate and the addition of caramel.

This velvety fruit forward bold field blend managed to satisfy all my wine needs. This says a lot of a wine at this price point. Luckily I am not alone. Wine Enthusiast rated a recent vintage 90 points and classified it under their BEST BUY distinction. VIVINO app customers also rate it highly. This easy drinker is a secret no more.

I am predicting that with in-store wine tastings our small display will need refilling on a regular basis. A great example of QPR [quality to price ratio] if I ever did see one. Here’s to spreading the wine gospel!

¡SALUD!

 

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Honig Napa 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – My First Wine of 2014

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2014 is here! Could last year really have been only a few days ago?  A retail whirlwind for me and many others out there I am sure. Yet I am excited that a fresh new year of wine is before us.

In 2011 we Ended the year with a BANG.  2013 began with Chappallet Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  2014 found me still holding on to last years resolution; I will not hoard nice wines! and succeeding by popping the cork on a wine recently received as a gift: the 2011 HONIG Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

Harvested September 27 thru October 25, 2011 and aged 18 months in American oak barrels [1/3 new], this Cab is made up of 95.4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4.6% Petit Verdot. Gotta love the decimals.

Their attention to detail caught my attention. Michael Honig was involved in the writing of the Code of Sustainable Practices for the Wine Institute and helped develop the first sustainable certification for California wineries. HONIG works with many vineyard practices including; solar power, sniffer dogs, bats and birds. For additional information checkout their Practices page by clicking here.

Fruit for this wine is from Rutherford and Napa Valley vineyards. Both sustainably farmed. As listed on the HONIG web-site; Each vineyard block was harvested and made into an individual lot representing that block. The wines were pressed off the skins from 10 to 20 days after crushing. Blending generally takes place between January and April of the year following harvestI like the fact that each block was harvested and made into individual lots.

HONIG Vintage Notes:

2011 began with a wet winter and spring (30% above normal rainfall) that continued with unprecedented rainfall into mid-June. The stage was set for a long, cooler-than-average growing season, a harvest beset with autumn storms, and the latest start to harvest in anyone’s memory. Mid-October rain continued to push the vintage even later, but growers were rewarded with an Indian summer that provided much needed ripening time.

My Notes:

On the nose: “WOW followed by a sigh”. Yes I actually wrote that down. Fruit, spice and wood all very balanced. Vanilla, sassafras, licorice, red fruit with an earthiness as it opened at 30 minutes. On the palate I noted this wine to be on the light side of medium bodied with same levels of tannins. Delicate, with fruit in the background. Fruitier as it opened at 40 minutes with oak fading into the background.

HONIG Tasting Notes:

This Cabernet is medium-bodied, with aromas and flavors of red cherry, and plum, alongside anise, black tea, vanilla, white pepper and dried herbs. The finish has the perfect balance of bright fruit, elegantly proportioned tannins, and a hint of cocoa powder.

The Wine Spectator ratings for the 2011 vintage do not seem to be available yet but the last few vintages show quite the pedigree: the 2007 production came in at 92 points, 2008  rated 91 points, 2009 at 92 and the 2010 a glowing 93 points.  All wonderful scores for a well-balanced Napa Cabernet Sauvignon which retails at about $40.00. A wine not too heavy or tannic that I can now recommend to customers throughout the new year.  ¡SALUD!

From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

The dark ruby-colored 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa possesses a friendly overall style, medium body, a slight herbal character, and attractive fruit. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.

Napa Valley – Mount Veeder Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

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Mount Veeder WineryI have my new customer base at Whole Foods Market North Miami to thank for introducing me to the Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon.  Customer after customer, probably better described as fans of this wine have repeatedly let me know how well priced [$30-32.00 range] this wine is at our store. I’ve had shoppers buy it by the case [with an extra 10% discount]  tell me they can’t get it better priced on-line or via wine clubs. Good for them and good for us!

Mount Veeder Winery in Napa Valley, was the first to grow all five red Bordeaux varietals planted on the same property. In fact this Cabernet is actually made up of; 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec.

Winery info:

Mount Veeder Winery is a dramatic estate with three vineyards carved high in the hillsides of the Mayacamas Mountains, overlooking southern Napa Valley. The property totals 121 acres, mostly forest and brush, out of which only 47 are planted to vine.

Vines ranging from 1,000–1,600 feet in elevation cling to rugged, steep slopes that offer cool conditions that lead to slow ripening, which extends the growing season. Mount Veeder is usually the last to harvest in Napa Valley. The result is fruit with highly concentrated flavors – big, bold and brambly – a Cab lover’s feast.

My notes:

Dark ruby-red in color I noted the fact the nose was so well-balanced immediately as I decanted. Within minutes wood [oak] started to overtake the dark fruit. The aroma of leather arrived soon afterwards with the return of rich fruit as mere minutes passed.

With bold tannins and medium body this wine needs to breathe/open.  A richness developed at the 20-30 minute mark with eucalyptus and an earthiness on the nose and palate.  At one and a half hours cocoa, cigar box  and a fruit finish was established. By the 2 hour mark the herbaceous notes on the nose expanded along with vanilla on the palate.  At 3 hours my notes just read; incredible smoothness.

Obviously I enjoyed this wine and I can see why many of my customers do also. Would I decant this wine for 3 hours? Probably not. But I have to admit the “smooth” epiphany at one and a half hours was well worth the wait!  Not only will I need patience when pouring this wine again, yes I have another bottle in the cellar, but I will also need the gift of patience to wait and not open it tonight!  ¡SALUD!

Winemaker Jane Myers notes:

Appearance: Deep ruby
Aromas: Ripe black currant, dark cherry, and lilac interlace with black pepper, bay leaves, coffee, and toasted oak to create a rich, dense nose.
Flavors: Powerful, rich, and textured notes of dark cherry, ripe plum, caramel, and vanilla weave an intense, voluminous mouthfeel accented by hints of anise and mocha. The back palate is rounded out by a lengthy yet smooth finish of vibrant sweet oak, tobacco leaves, and black olives.

Time in Oak: 20 months

Type of Oak: 70% new oak, predominantly French with some American oak.

Total Acidity: 6.1 g/l

Alcohol: 14%

Additional winery info:

Mount Veeder Winery was one born from the hard work and dedication of Michael and Arlene Bernstein.  The Bernsteins first discovered the rugged property in the early 1960s and later bought it as a rustic retreat.  In the ensuing years they transformed it into an enviable vineyard, almost by accident. After farming the property’s prune orchard for the first few years, a farmhand who lived on the property presented the Bernsteins with a bundle of cast-off grapevine cuttings.  Michael stuck the unrooted cuttings into the ground and never gave them a drop of water.  Miraculously, of the 60 cuttings planted, 58 lived.  Michael turned his full attention to the vines and built his land into a thriving vineyard, ultimately making history as the first vintner in Napa Valley to plant one property to all five of the classic Bordeaux varieties.

Napa Valley – 2009 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon

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Napa Valley – 2009 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon

I first discovered the wines of Louis M. Martini on the job as a Wine Steward. I didn’t taste them but was often told by customers of their merits. We carried the Sonoma and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, both sold well.  In my mind a side by side tasting and review for Whine and Cheers would be in my near future.  So much so that when I had the opportunity to buy the more expensive Napa Cab at a crazy sale price I jumped at the opportunity. Well, I may have jumped but basically I assigned the task to my parents who lived near this wine source across town.  Luckily for me they did as they were told. This is how I came across a few bottles of both Napa and Sonoma Cabs. How lucky am I?  I put them in my cellar [for those counting; yes still the guest room] about a year and a half ago.

Interestingly when I was hired earlier this year as a Specialty Beverage Buyer for Whole Foods Market I came to find out that not only would we be featuring the Louis Martini Cab’s at our Grand Opening but that……drum-roll ….. Michael Martini the third generation winemaker and grandson of Louis M. Martini would be in attendance signing bottles.

Bio:

Growing up in his father’s and grandfather’s vineyards, Michael Martini got a hands-on education in the art of crafting world-class wines. His formal study of viticulture began in the world-renowned wine-making program at the University of California, Davis. After graduation, Mike worked alongside his father, Louis P. Martini, before taking the reins as winemaker of Louis M. Martini Winery in 1977. Mike shares his grandfather’s passion for the Napa Valley region and is a past president of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, an organization that his grandfather Louis M. Martini helped establish in 1943.

Quite the character Michael [Mike] Martini was a hit at the North Miami store.  Our customers lined up to meet this tall gregarious and quite humorous gent as he entertained all with wine war stories. Thinking back I love that he was bluntly honest about his wines, present and past vintages whether good or bad. He did not hold back.

During this main event and other tastings that followed I was able to compare both wines side by side. Not enough to write about them extensively but definitely enough to know which one I preferred.  So this week finally after cellaring 1-2 years and realizing the 2009 vintage is practically no longer available I popped the cork on the Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

My tasting notes:

On the nose; dried dark fruit [blackberry, figs, prune, black currant], wood [oak], cigar box [cedar], tobacco, spicy [black pepper, vanilla]. With the addition of black cherry on the palate.  Aromas of cedar and grape really coming out at the 2 hour mark.

2013 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Louis M. Martini Winery which was established in 1933. In 1936 the winery became one of the first to use temperature-controlled fermentation. In 1943 Louis helps set up the Napa Valley Vintner Association. 1951; Louis P. Martini, 2nd generation winemaker is among first winegrowers to use wind machines to battle frost in the vineyards. 1968; Louis M. Martini Winery is among the first to bottle Merlot as a varietal wine in California.  In 1977 Michael Martini takes the helm. In 2002 the Gallo family, close friends of the Martini family for three generations, purchased the winery and vineyards.

I didn’t officially ever get to my vertical tasting, not yet anyway. But I must admit that the Louis M. Martini 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon bowls me over every time. It is intense, beautifully balanced and has a silky finish.  I am now longing to try their Monte Rosso or better yet take Mikes’ advice which he whispered to me as he was leaving: “Wait until you try the Alexander Valley!”

¡SALUD!

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

“A nice Cabernet, on par with the winery’s equally fine 2008. Shows plenty of class, with rich blackberry, currant and cedar flavors. Earns points for sheer elegance. Ready to drink now.  Editors’ Choice

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

The Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from vineyards up and down the Napa Valley. This wine exhibits a deep burgundy color with intense aromas of cassis, sweet herbs and hints of pipe tobacco. Intriguing flavors of ripe black cherries, deep, briary red fruits, and old world complexities linger throughout the finish. This is a well structured and balanced wine that is medium-to-full-bodied and is ready to enjoy now or can be aged up to 5 years.

Winemaker’s Notes

The Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from vineyards up and down the Napa Valley. This wine exhibits a deep burgundy color with intense aromas of cassis, sweet herbs and hints of pipe tobacco. Intriguing flavors of ripe black cherries, deep, briary red fruits, and old world complexities linger throughout the finish. This is a well structured and balanced wine that is medium-to-full-bodied and is ready to enjoy now or can be aged up to 5 years.

 

Life Through Rosé Colored Glasses – Vinho Verde Rosé? Rioja Rosé?

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Looking at the world through Rosé colored glasses helped ease the stress of a joint Fathers Day and Birthday dinner party for seven this last Sunday.  The pressure was on.  What to cook was on my mind all week up to the last-minute.

My much appreciated epiphany arrived by way of sampling stations at Whole Foods Market North Miami.  Our cold Sunday supper summer menu was quite the hit. So much so that I really got to enjoy it myself. Even after realizing I had not cooked any of the items myself as I had originally planned.  Their may be something to be said about catering or buying prepared foods for dinner parties 🙂

Our menu started with cheeses from: buffalo milk, a goat blue, goat and cow’s milk combined soft cheese from Vermont Creamery and a Gouda from Holland with cumin seeds. Although all cheeses were a hit the Vermont Creamery Cremont blew everyone away. I recently sampled the Cremont to customers in our Whole Foods Specialty department and we sold out in what felt like minutes!

Our feast continued with: Bison roast beef , key lime and cilantro shrimp, loaded potato salad and a kale salad with almonds, dried apples and cran-raisins. Luckily room was left for dessert. Chocolate layer cake with butter cream strawberry icing. The one item actually cooked in our house. Baked by my better half who has become quite the dessert maker!

Thinking summer and a cold surf and turf supper lead me to rosé wines I had eyed with interest.  A Rosé green wine? Vinho Verde by Casal Garcia and a Rosé Rioja [?] by El Coto. Two varieties of Rosé I had never come across before.

Casal Garcia comes from winemakers Quinta de Aveleda.  A family tradition: making wine since 1671. In my research I found that Portugal has exported its wine since the 14th century and is Europe’s fourth-largest wine-producing region.  A statistic that quite honestly surprised me.

I could swear the screw top popped like a cork as I was opening it! Beautiful intense rose color reminding me of watermelon candy pink on this 85 point Wine Spectator rated wine.  Dry with a rich fruit mid palate. Lingering finish. A very passable summer sipper at a great price of under $10.00 U.S.

3,000 cases made.

Spains Rioja region does not usually cry out ¡Rosé! to me but this could just be ignorance on my part.  Made from equal parts Tempranillo and Garnacha [Grenache] this wine comes to us from the area of Rioja Alavesa and its lime and clay soils. As per the  El Coto winemaker it is made with short cold maceration in contact with the skins to extract the colour, and fermentation. From grapes grown on their 500 hectare vineyard.

I found the Coto Rioja rosé to be herbal,  earthy and spicy on the nose with notes of raspberry and strawberry.  Dry on the nose.
Again a beautiful bright and rich rosé color. Caramelly on the palate making me think if wine spent any time in wood, with also sour tart berries a bit green not in a bad way,  and a lingering finish.  Minerality and fruit enhanced as it opened or warmed in the glass. Price $12.99 at Whole Foods Market.
So there we have it. Both wines were very well received. The Vinho Verde a bit lighter and the Rioja with more body and fruit flavor. Both refreshing and perfectly priced for the summer.  I think both these rosé wines gained fans over our Fathers Day Birthday weekend.  ¡SALUD!

Provenance Vineyards – Napa Valley 2008 Merlot

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Provenance Vineyards – Napa Valley 2008 Merlot

I first discovered this winemaker a couple of years ago thanks to a dear friend and big Napa fan. In fact I presently have a 2007 and 2009 Cab Franc along with their 2006 Merlot in my cellar. For those keeping count; the wine cellar is still the guest room 🙂

Having tried them all I can say I find these wines to be worthy of repeat purchases. The 2008 Merlot referenced here came to me at a great price via WTSO.com  – Wines til Sold Out .  Usually priced at about $35.00 per bottle the WTSO deal came in at $17.00 each by buying 4 bottles with free shipping.

Wine Spectator rates the overall 2008 Napa Merlot vintage at 89 points – Cool year with uneven ripening; a mixed bag. The Provenance 2008 Napa Merlot came in at 88 points – Sleek and elegant, with red currant and tomato leaf notes to the appealing cherry and cedar flavors. Drink now through 2015. 7,400 cases made. I would almost agree – rating this wine in the 88-90 point range.

In researching Provenance I discovered that winemaker Tom Rinaldi had made wines at wineries such as; Rutherford Hill, Freemark Abbey and helped start one of my favorites Duckhorn Vineyards in 1978.  He is presently the Wine Director for Provenance with Chris Cooney as Winemaker.  Hewitt Vineyard is a sister winery.  I  also had not realized that the grapes used by Provenance are actually from different vineyards within Napa: Recognized as one of the world’s great wine regions, Napa Valley is only 30 miles long and a few miles wide at its broadest point. Within this slender area, a few sub-appellations have demonstrated that they can produce superior Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. By selecting top vineyards in these sub-appellations  Provenance Vineyards showcases the unique personalities of Napa Valley’s best growing regions.

My notes

First off I noticed the aroma of new wood [oak] on the nose. A recent addition to my olfactory palette thanks to my increasing interest in Scotch and Whiskey. Dark sweet fruit forwardness was also noted along with the fact that this wine came across as very well-balanced [fruit:wood].  On the palate I was pleasantly surprised to note that this wine tasted exactly as it smelled with the addition of pepper, cedar/cigar box and later mint or sage to its lingering finish. We paired this wine with yeasty rolls and an incredible homemade, if I do say so myself, Cuban red bean soup. I did not notice much development in the wine from decanting to polishing off in a two-hour period but this Merlot was a great match for the strongly flavored hearty vegetarian soup.

As noted earlier I do find Provenance wines worthy of repeat performances. I have yet to be disappointed by them and now that I realize I have different vintages in the cellar I cannot wait to do comparisons! Again, the things I have to do in the name of research.

¡SALUD!

Red Wine by Provenance Vineyards from Napa Valley, California.  The 2008 vintage gave our Napa Valley Merlot great structure and deep, concentrated fruit character. The wine’s aromas and flavors express rich, velvety layers of black cherry, ripe plum, dark chocolate, clove, sage and tangerine zest. Notes of vanilla and cedar come from aging in more than 40 percent new oak barrels. The firm tannin structure beautifully supports the highly extracted flavors, making it an outstanding food wine, especially with grilled or roasted beef, lamb, pork or game, or with wild mushrooms. As a foodie as well as a winemaker, Chris recommends this Merlot with Moroccan lamb tagine and couscous with fragrant spices and preserved lemons.

CHAPPELLET 2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – SignatureSeries

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CHAPPELLET  2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon –

Signature Series

Chappellet-2009-Signature-Cabernet

Last year, well actually the end of 2011, we ended the year with a bang. Not having the opportunity to do the same for 2012 due to my holiday retail schedule,  I decided to instead begin the new year in such fashion.

What a wonderful way to start 2013.  Beginning the new year this way also fits right in with one of my New Years resolutions; I will not hoard nice wines!  They are, for the most part, to be enjoyed in the present and not at some future special occasion that never seems to arrive.

Two days into 2013 I seem to be succeeding because this wonderful wine was a recent Christmas present from my oldest friend. Well, he is old but I actually mean I’ve known him a long time 🙂 A wine lover himself we started talking about taking wine classes a very long time ago.

This 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 4% PetitVerdot. Wine Advocate rated it at 93 Points and had the following to say about it; The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Signature is another striking wine. The 2009 doesn’t have the bombastic fruit of the 2010, instead, it stands out for the silkiness of its tannin and pure length. The 2009 Signature is classy and refined from the very first taste. All the elements are beautifully in place in this mid-weight Cabernet. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2029.

Their anticipated maturity of 2017-2029 does not of course fit in with my New Years resolution but I am here to tell that this wine is delicious today. Having enjoyed it as much as we did I may have to invest in a bottle for later consumption under the guise of research to avoid my so-called New Years resolution 🙂 That said, at $50.00 a pop some [including myself] may think twice about popping this baby open on a weeknight. With 7,500 cases produced it is truly
worthy of being enjoyed on any night and yes it is worth its value should you be in the market for a wine in this price range.

“Oh my….” yes I actually wrote down Oh my… on my tasting sheet. Below are my notes:

Beautiful rich dark garnet in color as I poured into my wine glass. In the decanter it was more of dark purple-black shade. On the nose; dark fruit including black currant/casis, prune, plum and cherry. Also oak and some cedar which may actually have been tobacco or cigar box. Beyond my very favorable oh my… reaction I found this Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon to be smooth and flavorful. With fruit and wood very well-balanced. Tannins not heavy on the tongue but yet all-encompassing.

At 20 minutes I detected not much change in the nose but the wine becoming more fruit forward on the palate. As it continued to open, very nicely I might add, an earthy quality started to develop. One I defined as peppery at 45 minutes.

Wine Spectator rated this wine at 90 points and as mentioned before Wine Advocate came in at 93 points. I would have to agree with their reviews not only of this wine but of the exceptional 2009 Napa vintage. I am now intrigued to try their 2010 to compare. Christmas 2013 is just around the corner…. I’ll have to put it on my list!  ¡SALUD!


Wine Spectator Editor’s Note:
Dense and a touch rustic,
with chewy tannins, crushed rock, dried berry, sage and savory
flavors. Maintains its firm, tight focus and appears built for the
long haul. Best from 2013 through 2027. Winemaker
tasting notes:
This wine offers all of the color, concentration and complexity of a classic Cabernet Sauvignon from Pritchard Hill. The nose displays, rich, vivid layers of dark berry, cherry, and sweet oak, underscored by background notes of bay leaf, sage, chocolate and anise. The mouthfeel is powerful, yet rounded, with a silky presence that allows the wine to gracefully support its size, and its voluptuous ripe cherry, berry and plum flavors. Spicy oak notes of cinnamon, vanilla and roasted coffee add nuance and depth, while youthful tannins give a fine grip to the palate providing the structure for long-term aging.

Information from Chappellet: The wine
The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon has been our flagship wine for
more than three decades. It is a benchmark for the long-lived
hillside wines of the Napa Valley; full of structure and ageing
potential, yet seductively forward in its concentrated varietal
character. The dry, rocky soils of Pritchard Hill produce small,
intensely flavorful grapes. Crop thinning allows for full, even
ripening and further elevates flavor complexity.
Winery information It’s been 45 years since Donn and Molly Chappellet fell in love with the rolling hills overlooking Napa’s Lake Hennessey. In 1967 they set up shop on Pritchard Hill inspired to craft age-worthy, and noteworthy, wines. Taking to heart the advice of André Tchelistcheff, they became among the first to exclusively plant on high-elevation slopes. Seems that André’s training and instinct has served the wine world well as the rugged terroir of this location lends an intensity and depth to the finished wines. The generous legacy started by Donn and Molly now includes the second generation of Chappellets – all six children have a hand in continuing what their parents started. Their preservation efforts – from
composting, to solar energy to water conservation and organic
farming – are “embracing the romance of Pritchard Hill” and
ensuring it, and the exemplary wines they produce, will be around
for many generations to come.