Category Archives: Red Blend

Lunch with Orin Swift a.k.a. David Phinney

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INVITE

My lunch with Orin Swift a.k.a. David Phinney, yes THAT!! Orin Swift. The master wine-maker originally behind such incredible new-world wines such as: The Prisoner, SALDO, Locations, Blindfold, Machete, Thorn, Abstract and many more.

The setting, Cafe Boulud at the Bazilian Court in Palm Beach, just steps from Worth Avenue. Not a bad way to spend my afternoon off if I do say so myself.

 

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The meet and greet afforded us a couple of hours of quality time with David, we’re on first name basis now, where he spoke about growing up and his introduction to the world of wine, his many wine projects and even his family and favorite truck. Happy to report Mr. Phinney is very down to earth and has a fun sense of humor.

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David Phinney entertains Whole Foods & Whine and Cheers For Wine

 

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Palermo

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Abstract

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The group of about twenty five wine loving fans not only got the chance for one on one conversations  with the Master himself  but also enjoyed Cafe Boulud food pairings with a multitude of Orin Swift wines.   Included was 8 Years in the Dessert.  A mostly Zinfandel eight-pack gift set being sampled in public only for the third time ever. Usually available to wine club members which by the way has a six month waiting list. Patience is a virtue some say. David Phinney would know. The name of this set is based on his non-compete clause after selling off The Prisoner Wine Co.

Wines sampled, all pictured here; Blank Stare, Mannequin, Abstract, Machete, 8 Years in the Dessert, Mercury Head, Papillon and Palermo.

 

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Eight Days in the Dessert Gift Box

Again, what a way to spend an afternoon. How lucky am I? Having enjoyed and written about some of these very wines I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to meet the man, the legend, the master behind these incredible game changers in the wine industry.  Can’t wait to share his stories and mine with all our customers.

¡SALUD!

 

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Papillon

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Mercury Head

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Blank Stare

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Mannequin

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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.

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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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

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words 

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Carolyn Wente visits

 

What a year! As 2014 blended into 2015 and now 2016, the wine retail dust is settling. Tastings, winemaker visits, holiday programs, classes, marketing events and more encompass my blur of a year as a Wine Buyer for Whole Foods Market. Luckily for me, lots of wine and little whine.

In no particular order some highlights of my wine filled year in photos. ¡SALUD!
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    PIATTELLI MALBEC 201319 CRIMES WINE

Whole Foods Market NMIA

Whole Foods Market NMIA

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Aging Beautifully: Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

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Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

Recently while preparing for a four-month long home remodeling project and possible out-of-state move [don’t ask] I found myself organizing and reviewing my wine collection.  In doing so I discovered a couple of bottles of 2009 Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur.  A wine I discovered via WTSO [see story below] and have excitedly sold on and off depending on availability as the North Miami Wine Buyer for Whole Foods Market.

As one thing leads to another, as they usually do at least for me, I looked up my original review on Whine and Cheers for Wine where I found multiple references.  Not only did this wine make this sites Top 10 for 2013 and 2014 but I realized my review was dated February 2012! Hard to believe three and a half years had passed.  After rereading my rantings I’ve decided to take my own advice:  it will be interesting to see how the flavors develop over time. Or if they do. Assignment of  the day! A 2015 re-tasting of the Chateau de Macard.

50% Cabernet Franc, 39% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon

My 2015 notes;

On the nose; rich red fruit, alcohol [soon dissipated], oak, spice [vanilla], dark fruit [plum] and a mossy earthiness as it opened [5-10 minutes].

On the palate; medium body, red and dark fruit at forefront, great acidity, good tannin level and a nice mouth-feel. Over the next hour red cherry fruit and a red plum finish was noted along with spiciness [black pepper] as the wine softened but with tannin’s holding on. An hour and a half to two hours in, the wine continued to soften beautifully with floral notes, caramel, mocha and violet detected.

The 2009 Chateau de Macard continues to blossom.  In my notes I found the words beautiful and lovely used. Two descriptors not usually found in my vocabulary. I am so glad I had the perseverance or more likely the forgetfulness to save this wine for a future tasting. Lucky me! And Lucky you if you come by this wine. I have one bottle of the 2009 vintage left and a bottle of the 2012 for future scientific imbibing.  Can’t wait to see what develops. ¡SALUD!

 

 

Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

Impressed by what I keep hearing about the 2009 Bordeaux vintage and the reputation of the winemaker,  renowned Alain Aubert of Saint-Emilion estate Chateau Haut-Gravet, I purchased this through WTSO, Wines til Sold Out.  At a price of $9.99 a bottle I thought it was a great deal and value.  The way it works is that with a minimum order [4 in this example] you get free shipping, the regular or original retail price listed was $18.00.

This particular wine received a 90 pt rating from Wine Spectator along with its Smart Buy designation.  It  was also featured on the Today Show during a segment; Tips For Choosing the Perfect Holiday Wine.

Deep dark burgundy and purple in color this blend includes; Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Upon decanting I detected dark fruit notes, a distant oak aroma and what I would describe as terroir or minerality.  Tasting after decanting 1+ hours this wine added; tobacco and  black cherry to the palate.  Showing a good acidic balance this medium bodied Bordeaux value did not taste like a $10.00 bottle of wine. I am glad I have 3 additional bottles in my cellar [the guest room :)] because it will be interesting to see how the flavors develop over time. Or if they do.  This is where willpower comes in handy…..

Salud!

Tips For Choosing The Perfect Holiday Wines As Featured on NBC’s Today Show Aired Fri Dec 09 2011
Wine To Bring To The Party [A Gift For The Host] Chateau de Macard 2009 Bordeaux Superieur AOC   $20 “One of the great wines of the year” “Shows your good taste” Sommelier Joe Bastianich
By Wine Spectator CHATEAU DE MACARD Bordeaux Superieur 2009 Score: 90 Country: France Region: Bordeaux Issue: Dec 31, 2010 Designation: Smart Buys Ripe and dense, but fresh, with silky-textured plum, blackberry and blueberry fruit carried by sweet spice and  tobacco notes. The fleshy finish shows nice drive. Should open up more with brief cellaring. Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.