Category Archives: Wine

Caymus Sails From Argentina to Napa via Red Schooner Voyage 4

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CSchooner BTLrazy talk: Caymus Malbec? Napa? Argentina? Wagner Family? Followed by, how could they use the Caymus name? Trademark fraud! All these confused thoughts popped into my head simultaneously as I reviewed a restaurant’s wine list over lunch with the parental units to celebrate a birthday.  There it was, Caymus Malbec. I didn’t order the wine that day, and very soon regretted it.

As days passed and the shocking thoughts calmed I remembered meeting with a winemaker from Argentina who happened to mention that a BIG name in Napa Valley was buying most of their grapes. He didn’t know what they were doing with it and asked if I’d heard anything.  I of course had not. Fast forward and we have the; Red Schooner by Caymus Vineyards, yes that Wagner Family Wines.

From Red Schooner Winery;

For more than 40 years we have been making dark, rich red wine from Napa Valley. We are also, perhaps not surprisingly, avid consumers of diverse wines from around the globe. We still love to learn about California with its array of soils and extreme maritime-influenced climate, but we have also found that venturing far afield helps us see what is close by in unexpected ways. And for us this perspective inspired us to experiment in a way we wouldn’t have imagined even 10 or 15 years ago.The Red Schooner label and name evoke the challenge – along with the thrill – of voyage and discovery. Since our experiment falls outside the normal rules and we think our “chill-and-ship” may even be a first in the world of fine wine making, we were unable to use standard labeling practices. You won’t find a vintage date, varietal or grape origin on our label. Instead Red Schooner is a “Red Wine of the World” and it will be known by the voyage from which it was produced.

 

ScoonerCorkHaving connected all the Caymus dots, I looked for the opportunity to return to the same restaurant. Before me appeared the opportunity: out-of-town visiting relatives with a request for restaurant eating.  Having recently had such a good experience my better-half unbeknownst suggested the same! restaurant. Now you know why they’re referred to as my better-half.  Dinner night arrives, menu’s are scanned, and I suggest a bottle of red wine for the table. Instead of the expected “sure why not” I hear “NO!!!! we want cocktails instead”.  I scan the table to no avail for any possible takers that would share this possibly magical event with me and then I order Bourbon instead…..

Days later still focused on trying this boutique-wine, I found myself at a wine super-store chain to no avail thanks to little assistance from the newly hired very friendly clerk. About to give up I finally ordered a bottle of Red Schooner online, but wait for it, from the same said super-store chain that claimed to not have it yet I picked it up two hours later at the same location! Deep breaths. At least now I had my wine safely in-hand patiently waiting for a night to pour, sniff and taste.

My tasting notes

Dark and ink-like, the color coats the glass and has legs for days with an alcohol level of 14.75.  A great nose with wood [cedar, oak vanilla], caramel, butterscotch, chocolate licorice and berry [strawberry, raspberry].  On the palate, full-bodied with red fruit, chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, fig, dried dates/prunes, Crème de cassis and to me the tropical fruit sapodilla.  Jammy as it opened I imagine the Caymus Red Schooner Voyage 4 would pair perfectly with fatty foods, rich sauces and grilled meats.

Happy to say I have now experienced the Red Schooner Voyage 4 which of course now makes me want to taste the previous voyages to compare. Is it worthy? I say yes. For fans of the big, bold and fruit forward Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon this is a perfect wine. Does it scream Malbec? Not particularly. Does it taste like a Caymus? Oh yeah……  ¡SALUD!

Winemaker’s Notes

This Malbec is made from grapes grown in the Andes Mountains, shipped chilled to Napa Valley and produced with the same techniques as our Caymus Cabernet. Falling outside standard labeling rules, it does not include a vintage date but is known by the voyage from which it was produced (Voyage 4 is the 2013 vintage). Offering scents of ripe plums and cherries, this wine is powerful and supple, with flavors of French oak and soft tannins.

Mexican Wine! Pavo Real 2012 Red Blend

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IMG_3288Yes it’s true: Mexican wine has finally made it to Whole Foods Market North Miami.

Many of our guests are surprised to hear “our new Mexican wine” once they enter our Specialty department. Some already in the know, are beyond excited to get their hands on a bottle or bottles as the case may be.  I am happy to report that we have sold multiple cases since its arrival only three weeks ago.  A testament to the customers who buy one bottle for its newness factor and return happy to buy more.

During my time in the wine biz [spoiler alert career anniversary quickly approaching]  I probably averaged about two or three requests a year from customers about wines from Mexico. Most of them having discovered them while on vacation there and raving about them upon returning home.

Although wine making is not new to Mexico, history tells us wine was introduced to the area by Spanish missionaries, it was not exported due to limited production levels. As the popularity of wine growing increased in the Valle de Guadalupe so did its production and exporting beyond the west coast became possible. The more I learn about this area and its now 100+ wineries the higher the Baja Peninsula gets on my to-do list!

As regular readers may already know I love discovering new wine trivia, varietals etc. Well the Pavo Real falls into this category in a big way!  Wine from Mexico, check. Wine made by a famous sommelier, who knew? Turns out that for those of us who are fans of the movie SOMM [if you haven’t seen it add it to your queue STAT], from their web-site: A prestigious blender: The wines are blended by prestigious and internationally recognized sommelier, Ian Cauble. Ian Cauble has been a Master Sommelier since 2012 and gained worldwide recognition when featured in the critically acclaimed documentary Somm, which documented Ian’s journey to pass the infamously difficult Master Sommelier exam.  And lastly for me, a new varietal to add to my list!

The blend listed on the Pavo Real includes; 50% Grenache; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 20% Ruby Cabernet; 10% Barbera.  Ruby Cabernet? I had never heard of such a varietal. Turns out, thank you Wikipedia;

Ruby Cabernet is a red Olmo grape variety that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan, it can produce wines with good colour and a pleasant cherry flavour, but is mostly blended into bulk wines.  And for those wondering what an Olmo grape variety is;  Olmo grapes are wine and table grape varieties produced by University of California, Davis viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo. Over the course of his nearly 50-year career, Dr. Olmo bred a wide variety of both grapes by means of both crossing varieties from the same species or creating hybrid grapes from cultivars of different Vitis species.

My notes:

On the nose, earthy aromas bringing mushrooms and fallen leaves to mind with red fruits in the background including strawberries and raspberries. Light bodied seeming when poured.  On the palate; medium/light body but flavorful, nicely balanced fruit, not overly fruity, restrained with peppery spices on the finish.

The Pavo Real, which translates into Peacock by the way, seemed to evaporate before my very eyes, well actually once poured into my wine glass is more like it.  This is an easy-drinker which I think would please crowds when entertaining [someone say Cinco de Mayo?] and also when having a quiet romantic evening for one such as I did. The price point of under $15 makes it a no-brainer with some deals out there showing Pavo Real available in the $10-$13 range plus shipping.  I hear they have a white wine out there too. I can dream can’t I?

VIVA MEXICO! and ¡SALUD!

 

BLENDER’S NOTES
“Pavo Real Red Wine exhibits intense and fruit forward aromas of dried strawberry, black cherry liqueur, black currants, crushed pomegranates, violets, wet leaves, wild herbs, black pepper, cacao nibs, wet leather and dried clay. The palate is full, layered, rich and spicy with flavors of preserved raspberries, strawberries, bitter chocolate, dried herbs and baking spices.”

A DELICIOUS PAIRING:  This intense and flavorful wine demands a rich meal. Beef fajitas with grilled onions and spicy chorizo dishes will stand up to Pavo Real Red Wine. Pair with sweet sopapillas for a decadent Pavo Real experience.

Robert Parker 97 pt Rated – Louis M Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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IMG_3252Closing in on 4 years later I finally took Michael Martini’s whispered advice and sampled “the Alexander Valley”. Yes, albeit a different vintage, but yet once again a wine renowned for its quality. With many recent 90pt plus ratings, Louis M Martini wines, from Sonoma to Napa Valley, have been flying off the shelves at our Whole Foods Market. For my 2013 background story click here.  I wonder what  Michael Martini The Wine Whisperer would have to say about his 2014 vintages….

My notes:

Dark ruby-red in color. Luscious and rich fruit on the nose upon decanting with notes of; spice, resinous woods, smoky cedar, leather and a earthy/dusty quality. On the palate; deliciously red and dark fruit forward with strawberry, black currant and blackberry noted.

I have to agree with Robert Parker’s comment: “This is a beauty”.  If this Alexander Valley beauty is available to you, it is well worth the just under $30 price tag. As per The Wine Advocate review will it age well for 20 years? Probably so. But why wait. Don’t think twice. It will not disappoint.   ¡SALUD!

Winemaker notes:

The 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has received high critical praise for its decadent black cherry, black current and blackberry aromas and flavors that weave together with earthy notes of truffle, tobacco and smoky cedar. This expansive wine is dense, rich and well-structured, held together beautifully by assertive tannins that lead into a long, full finish. Its depth and structure give the wine potential to easily age a decade or more.

The Wine Advocate/Robert Parker 97pts.“The bigger, richer 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petite Sirah aged 16 months in 50% new French and American casks. This is a bigger wine and close to 2% higher in alcohol at 15.5%. There are 11,000 cases of this big, full-bodied, boisterous Cabernet Sauvignon that has a dense ruby/purple color, notes of underbrush, forest floor, tobacco leaf and oodles of blackcurrants and black cherries, with a touch of woodsmoke. The full-bodied wine hits the palate with a cascade of glycerin, fruit and purity. This is a beauty – dense, rich, and structured, but capable of lasting 20 or more years.”

 

Wine Spectator Top 100 – #6 Machete from Orin Swift

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img_1953The Wine Spectator Top 100 list is a BIG deal every year. Making the Top 10 and being named #6 on that list, well it doesn’t get much better for everyone from the wine makers to the consumer.

As the names and scores are released daily I immediately get questions from customers about their availability. Of course I usually beat them to the punch as I await every daily press release in the hopes that I not only know the wine but have it on my shelf at our Whole Foods Market North Miami. Wine geek much? I guess so..

fullsizerender-2As a big fan of Dave Phinney and his Orin Swift winemaking skills I knew of Machete; a Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache blend, but had not had the honor of trying it due to availability or distribution issues. Well that all changed when earlier this year Dave Phinney announced the sale of Orin Swift Cellars to E. & J. Gallo Wines. Since then I am happy to announce that most if not all of the Orin Swift wines have become available to me [thanks to great distributor relationships] and are flying off the shelf just by word of mouth and reputation. Well, until now of course.

With only 15,500 cases produced, a 94 point score, a TOP 100 and TOP 10 list placement by Wine Spectator the 2014 vintage may not be around for long . Fingers crossed that it is, but I am also excited by the fact that Dave Phinney will be staying on as head of Orin Swift Cellars while benefiting from the power and potential behind a partnership with E. & J. Gallo Wines¦SALUD!

My tasting notes: In all honesty this was a group tasting. Fate had me buying a bottle of Machete, to probably drink/taste alone, on the same night wine loving neighbors in need of brawny men to move a wine cellar fridge called. The stars and planets aligned. Wine cave installed, this wine was a glorious hit with all who imbibed and even garnered me a sale of multiple bottles! Our thoughts; opaque purple-black in color, big & robust on the nose with dark berries, currants, licorice, cloves and white pepper, full-bodied, drinkable now not in need of decanting, great Autumn wine, although big and bold on the nose much softer on the palate, smooth tannins, noticeable acidity.

Wine maker notes:
A nearly opaque color sets in the glass with a hard, red complexion that is almost black. Aromas of ripe blueberries and candied plum mingle with toasted oak and charred vanilla. The entry is soft and inviting which paves the way for a lush mid-palate replete with layers of ripe boysenberry and cassis. The finish showcases ripe tannins and pronounced fruit which frames the two for nearly a minute. **Bottled with 12 Different Labels, you may not receive the one pictured**
Wine Spectator notes:

Generous and expressive, big and brawny, this offers a mouthful of tannins but also brims with flavors and aromas, including Earl Grey tea, dark chocolate, dried violet and toasted gingerbread. Rich notes of plum and black cherry are balanced by forest floor and earth accents, which linger on the long finish. Petite Sirah, Syrah and Grenache. Drink now through 2030.

Machete 2014

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Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

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Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

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Arrowood Vineyards sits in a beautiful valley of Sonoma County along the two-lane Sonoma Highway. Such a quiet and wonderful  location that I had to take advantage of their cozy front porch and reflect on how lucky I was to be touring wine country. Wine-tasting through Sonoma County, from its mountains and valleys to the breathtaking coastline.

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Driving through Sonoma County.

 

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Arrowood Vineyards front porch with a new friend.

From Arrowood’s organic certified single vineyard varietals to sustainably farmed and certified gems throughout Sonoma, including this Knights Valley Cab, all left a mark not only on my palate but also my trip.

 

 

9 1 points -antonio galloni February 2016 “… superb. Raspberry jam, spice, scorched earth, rose petal, cloves and new leather are some of the signatures. Knights Valley is often noted for Graves-like sense of gravel-infused minerality, naturally allied to a California expression of fruit. That is exactly what readers will find.”

 

 

 

 

 

From Arrowood Vineyards;

Knights Valley Vineyards

Tucked into the foothills of Mount Saint Helena on the remote eastern edge of Sonoma County, Knights Valley experiences a moderated climate, offering a longer and later growing season that develops dark fruit aromatics.

 

 

My notes:

The first thing I noticed was how beautifully balanced this big Cab was on the nose. Earthiness, fruit and spice all coexisting with no one factor overwhelming the other. At the same time; gentle and subtle yet profound.

On the palate the the earthy spiciness [cedar, tobacco box, coffee, eucalyptus] were in the background with rich dark fruit at the front. With medium tannins the finish was spicy and herbal [eucalyptus/anise]. Balanced on the palate as well I would suggest decanting this gorgeously rich Cabernet.

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View from Arrowood Vineyards Porch towards Sonoma Hwy.

 

When I come up with a sentence that includes “gentle and subtle yet profound” you have to know I enjoyed this wine. I can say it left a mark. 

Would I recommend this wine? You bet. Would I buy this wine myself? Oh yeah.

 

In the $40.00 range, it is not an every day wine for most of my customers but it should definitely be on the radar for their holidays and special occasions. For those with a bigger wine budget the Arrowood Knights Valley Cabernet is incredibly well priced and could easily be compared to other wines at twice the cost. Now excuse me as I start planning my next wine trip back to Sonoma or at the very least reliving my memories over a glass of wine. ¡SALUD!

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Arrowood Vineyards tasting room lobby.

 

 

Winemaker notes:

Our 2013 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is bold with black forest fruit and spiced plum, offering undertones of roasted coffee and crushed rock. Caramel and anise come through on the palate accompanied by broad tannins and a rich and persistent finish.

 

New Varietal Discovery: Bobal – Academia de los Nocturnos

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Academia de los NocturnosSpring is in the air and with it the luck of new wine discoveries. Some of which I hope to be writing about in the near future. First up is my latest Spanish find the grape varietal Bobal: thanks to Pago De Tharsys Academia de los Nocturnos, From the DO Utiel-Requena area of Valencia.

Interesting internet tidbits:

  • Utiel Requena is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) for wines located in the province of Valencia. It takes its name from the two neighboring towns of Utiel and Requena. It is renowned for the predominant use of the Bobal grape variety. Grape growing and wine production in the area dates from at least the 7th century BC.
  • Bobal is the third most planted variety in Spain coming behind Airén  and Tempranillo.
  • Founded in 1591 Academia de los Nocturnos was a meeting place for some of Valencia’s greatest literary and artistic figures.

Third most planted grape in Spain? Have I been living under a wine glass? Always so much to learn, discover and of course share. Not knowing any of this history I fell for the fruity embodiment of what could be a big hit for my customer base at Whole Foods.

 

My tasting notes:

Light bodied, good acidity, light to no discernible tannins, red fruits noted, nice flavor richness at the back-end of palate, not fruit forward yet somewhat complex as in no one flavor jumps out, herbal/floral/spices [violet, cedar] appear on the palate after breathing 30 minutes.

I would describe this wine to be comparable to old world affordable Pinot Noir, Ventoux, and Beaujolais. An easy drinker and excellent choice for everyday drinking, as a party wine when trying to satisfy a crowd, a light Summer red (specially in Miami!), and holiday meals like Thanksgiving when you have many different styles of foods you are pairing with.  We happened to pair it with a Whole Foods Cowboy Burger, potato salad, fresh sliced tomatoes and a cucumber dill salad. This Bobal paired well with them all.

I am happy to report that three weeks after stacking the Academia de los Nocturnes in our North Miami wine department it has been discovered. Could be the cool minimal label, the newness factor, or did I mention the price? A whopping $8.99! Not even on sale, regularly priced. Yes, many factors to consider but I think the repeat customer business is all the proof we will need. To new discoveries!  ¡SALUD!

 

Puglia Salento’s – 2013 Verso Rosso

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rossoItaly’s Verso Rosso by wine-maker Alessandro Botter came to me thanks to a Whole Foods Market wine distributor event held last year in Fort Lauderdale Florida. My team leader at the time and I flipped over this wine at first pour. A occurance I have to admit didn’t happen often thanks to his advanced palate. We agreed instantly that this wine had to be shared with our customer base and share we have. The Verso Rosso became an instant hit and repeat seller through word of mouth. The fact that we have now sold 20+ cases at one location is our proof.

Hand harvested, with no irrigation, this blend of 60% Negroamaro, 35% Primitivo [the genetic cousin to our Zinfandel], and 5% Malvasia Nera come from bush-trained vineyards. 3,000 vines per hectare [2.417  acres] which produces 1 bottle per plant average yield.  This would explain the bold flavor profile.

My notes:

Red fruit nose [raspberry] opening to a more dark fruit aroma [blackberry and blueberry] with spice. Light side of medium bodied but full of flavor. Good acidity and light on tannins [smooth]. To me, a port-like finish on the palate which must come from the appassimento [raisined grape] process.

Having earned the Wine Spectator “Top Value” designation just goes to show that I am not alone in this Verso Rosso love-fest. Being a California Zinfandel fan, I love that you get a very similar wine here but with some delicateness. Maybe just more “old-world” than “new world”.  Priced at $19.99 this vino is worthy. On sale at $14.99 this could easily become my go-to every day drink of choice. ¡SALUD!

 

From importer enjoysmall.com:

Verso is a very full-bodied, luscious wine made with a small percent of ‘appassimento’, or raisined, grapes. It comes from the same terrific people who make Casa Contini. The grapes are grown on two non-contiguous crus, with about 10,000 cases total made, which is, of course, very small for Puglia. Rich and dark in color, with vibrant spice flavors, it is a hedonistic experience that captures the polished side of Negroamaro and Primitivo.

Casa Contini:

Tasting notes: The good late maturation gives the characteristic notes of ripe and dried fruits, such as plums and raisins. The subsequent slight oak aging gives the pleasant notes of chocolate and spices that make this wine harmonic and balanced, pleasant and mature.

Wine Spectator:

Creamy and harmoniuos, this shows a pretty palate of creme de cassis, melted licorice and sweet smoke, with accents of grilled herb and chocolate mousse on the finish. Drink now through 2018