Archive for the 'Tempranillo' Category

Tasting Mexican Wine: San Lorenzo and Monte Xanic

Mexican wine is something I haven’t devoted much time to up to this point in my wine journey. Over the years, I have tasted a few of the LA Cetto wines, but that had pretty much been it. So, when I received an email through this site from Eduardo Ramirez asking if I’d like to try a few Mexican wines, I jumped at the chance. I met Eduardo a while later to chat about the wines he represents and to accept 4 samples.

The first two represent the value line from Casa Madero, which at close to 500 years old, is apparently the oldest operating winery in the Western hemisphere. These value wines are named for the original San Lorenzo Winery, which was founded in its current location in Central Mexico in 1597.

Here’s what I tasted:

2009 San Lorenzo Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay & Colombard: This is an interesting blend of 50% Chenin Blanc, 25% Chardonnay, and 25% Colombard. The nose is a mix of lemon, apricot and flinty stone, which lead to a really nice mix of flavours that finish with the whole citrus-melon-flinty stone thing going on. It’s a very nice sipper and went really well with a simple dish of grilled halibut with lemon. It’s a solid value at $17-20 here in Vancouver.
3 1/2 stars

2008 San Lorenzo Cabernet Sauvignon – Tempranillo: This is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Tempranillo. It has a nose that gives up a bit of red cherry/berry fruit, and a bit of tar and mineral. A sip had me thinking of dusty dark cherries and an earthy bitterness that led out to a medium finish with decent tannins. Not complex, but a nice sipper, especially for the money ($19.90 here in BC).
3 stars

Now onto the Monte Xanic wines. According to their site, the name, “Xanic” originates with the Cora Indians who continue to inhabit parts of Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific coast, and means, “Flower which blooms after the first rain.” The winery was founded in 1987 in response to the recent opening of the border to foreign wines, which many deemed superior to Mexican wine. The owners of Monte Xanic set out to prove they could make wines to compete with any of the wines from outside Mexico.

While they may not be up there with the world’s best wines, they are doing a respectable job.

2008 Monte Xanic Chenin Colombard The nose has a honeyed edge to lemony citrus and pear and is a blend of 95% Chenin Blanc and 5% Colombard. The flavours are all about exactly what the nose hinted at… the medium-bodied pear and lemon have a light coating of honey and the finish goes on for a minute with a crisp and flinty minerality that I really like. This is a very tasty and well-made wine. I think it would be delicious with some grilled salmon. It retails in Vancouver for $24.
4 stars

2006 Monte Xanic Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot: This one is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. To me, the nose on this wine is a bit like sniffing the venerable “oak monster” itself. It mellows with some air, but this is definitely a case of a wine-maker choosing the new oak route. The nose has powerful vanilla, mocha and berry aromas – more a sign of the oak than the grapes. The flavours of the grapes do come through with delicious dark berries along with the oak-influenced vanilla spice. I liked it, but would like to see less of the new oak. In Vancouver, it retails for $36.
3 1/2 stars

All in all, I would say that I was both surprised and impressed by the wines – surprised that a white blend was my pick of the group and impressed with the overall quality of the wine. Check them out if you feel like trying a few of the wines of Mexico.

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Napa/Sonoma trip – Day 1 in Napa Valley

Candace and I headed into the Napa Valley last Friday and I was really looking forward to the appointments I had set up. The weather was spring-warm perfect, the traffic was light and I was looking forward to tasting some of Napa’s Cabernet. First in line was the venerable Beaulieu Vineyard, located in Rutherford. The second appointment was set for 2pm at Whitehall Lane Winery and we were penciled in at Cuvaison Estate Wines in Calistoga for 4pm. It was going to be an afternoon full of (hopefully) good wine.

Beaulieu Vineyard:
I had only visited Beaulieu once before – way back in 1991. That was also my first visit to Napa Valley. What I really remember about the visit was that, back then, like many guys in their early 20’s I was into the whole Seattle music scene and had the hair to match. It was halfway down my back. I know… I know, but hey – it was the early 90’s. The point of mentioning this was that many of the wineries, upon seeing 4 long-haired musician-looking types headed their way, lived up to the much-feared wine snob stereotype – they treated us like crap. We were there to learn, sample and buy. They made that much less pleasant than it should have been.

Not Beaulieu. To this day, I have a soft spot for them because of the open and friendly way we were greeted and led through a wine sampling education. It was what a visit to a winery should be – FUN. They helped send me down the road to being the wine geek I am today. I don’t remember the names of the nice folks from that visit, but will fondly remember our tasting with Robert last Friday.

We were greeted at the door with a sample of their 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and then made our way to their tasting bar and through their Maestro Collection and their Napa Valley Cabernets. Here’s a list and quick rating of what we tasted:

  • 2006 Maestro Petite Sirah ($32) – 3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2005 Maestro Ensemble Red ($27) – 4 stars
  • 2006 Maestro Zinfandel ($30) – 4 stars
  • (Unsure of the vintage) Tempranillo ($?) – 4 stars

The Cabernets:

  • 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) – 4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2005 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 1 ($65) – 4.5 stars
  • 2005 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 2 ($65) – 4.5 stars (my favourite of this flight)
  • 2006 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 2 ($65) – 4.5 stars

After tasting these, Robert took us down to the members’ tasting lounge and seated us in front of 4 glasses. Into those he poured:

  • 2006 Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir ($45)
    Beautiful colour with elegant ripe plum and cherry flavours.
    4 stars
  • 2003 Tapestry Reserve ($? – a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec)
    Balanced ripe fruit with firm yet silky mineral-laced tannins.
    4 stars
  • 2006 Tapestry Reserve ($60)
    Bigger and earthier with a toasty edge to the dark cherry, black currant and dark chocolate flavours. Lots of tannin. Very tasty.
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($115)
    Really good. Lots of complexity. I got licorice, blackberry, black currant and vanilla spice on the nose. The flavours showed all that along with some coffee. The finish lasted minutes and was very firm. It has the structure to last for quite a while and will be best in a few years.
    4.5 stars

Whitehall Lane Winery:
Next up was our 2pm appointment with Katie. This is a much smaller family operation compared to Beaulieu. It was bought by Tom Leonardini Sr. in 1993 and has seen extensive changes to the winery and the equipment since that time. The winery owns roughly 110 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley including the Leonardini Vineyard in St. Helena and the Rutherford West Vineyard in, you guessed it, Rutherford.

Katie poured us a sample of their Chardonnay and led us out of the tasting room and into the winery. We watched them bottling their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and had a quick tour of the member’s lounge and a beautiful view of the surrounding vineyards from its deck. We then headed back to the tasting room to sample their wines. Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($16)
    Crisp acidity and nice citrus and melon fruit.
    3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2007 Chardonnay, Carneros ($28)
    Again – nice and crisp with pear and citrus with some vanilla from the oak.
    3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2007 Pinot Noir, Carneros ($28)
    Very light with nice red cherry and a bit of citrus and spice.
    3.5 stars
  • 2006 Merlot, Napa Valley ($28)
    Black cherry and berry with a floral edge lead to nice vanilla and spice on the finish.
    4 stars
  • 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($40)
    Nice tannins edge the ripe blackberry and black currant fruit with earth and spice on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This is a blend of fruit from both of their Cabernet vineyard sites in the Napa Valley. It really grabbed my taste buds with its ripe fruit and elegant balance. Flavours of black currant, dark cherry and berry led to a spicy vanilla-tinged finish from the oak. It’s still quite young and will be best in a year or so (or more).
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This was Candace’s favourite wine of the day, with a really nice nose that hinted at the ripe fruit to come. A sip literally explodes in the mouth with jammy back currant and berry fruit, followed by a long and elegant finish with very firm tannins.
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This wine was a very interesting counterpart to the St. Helena Cab. It tasted of the “Rutherford Dust” the area is known for. This also had really elegant fruit and a long spicy finish. I really liked this one.
    4.5 stars

All in all, I’d have to say that I really liked the Cabs we tasted. As a matter of fact, I liked them enough that I took a few with me when we left.

Cuvaison Estate Wines:
Last July when I was down in Napa and Sonoma for the Wine Blogger’s Conference, a mix-up left Graham, Shea and I standing in Cuvaison’s Calistoga parking lot wondering where the rest of the crew had disappeared to… only to realize that they had been bused down to Cuvaison’s newer Carneros facility. Well, I made a mental note to return to the cozy Calistoga tasting room the next time I was in the area – so with an appointment set up by my friend Paul Watkin of Seacove Wines (who represent Cuvaison in BC), here we were.

After a recent re-vamp, the room was not only cozy, but modern as well. We settled in at one of the tables and Gabe brought around the samples and filled us in on the geographical and winemaking facts for each wine. I was really impressed with what he poured:

  • 2007 S Block Chardonnay ($38)
    This had really gorgeous fruit – orange peel, melon and pineapple that led to a balanced and crisp finish. Very tasty.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 ATS Chardonnay ($54)
    Wow. There was an explosion of flavour on the finish of this wine – crème brulée, nut, apple and mineral-edged lemon. Initially, a sip gave peach, and citrus flavours, but man… that finish. Very good.
    4.5 stars
  • 2008 Mariafield Pinot Noir ($32)
    This Swiss clone gives bright purple cherry and cola flavours, with tonnes of spice and cherry cola on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2007 Block F5 Pinot Noir ($45)
    I really liked this wine. It was darker in colour than the Mariafield and struck me as having more going on. On the nose, there was blackberry and ripe red cherry. A sip gave me silky tannins that edged the black cherry cola, spice and floral flavours.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Zinfandel, Bald Mountain ($35)
    This wine surprised me. I know Cuvaison is known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but they also turn out a tasty Zinfandel. It had nice dark plum and berry on the nose. Flavours of ripe plum, dark berry led out to bramble spice and cracked pepper on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder ($45)
    Black pepper and ripe currant on the nose led to black pepper, currant and licorice flavours and a long finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2006 Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder ($85)
    This really caught me off guard. Its’ delicious! The nose showed purple berry, vanilla and licorice spice. The flavours were big and balanced – ripe dark berry, black currant, licorice and spice on the long, long finish. Wow.
    4.5 stars

I have to say that this is the way to spend a day in Napa Valley. Make a few appointments and really spend the time going through each winery’s wines. There are a lot of great wineries in the valley, so take some time to check them out.

8 comments

2003 Campo Alto Crianza, Rioja

Next up in the under $30 challenge is the Campo Alto Crianza. I picked this one up last week, being struck that is always nice to find a reasonably priced bottle that has a few years on it, particularly one from Rioja.

I popped this one, poured and gave it a swirl. Initially the nose was full of dusty violet, dried cranberry and a bit of vanilla. I gave it some time to sit and came back some felt marker had joined the fray. Pretty appealing to me! At that point I figured it was time for a swirl and slurp and I got much more of the vanilla on the palate, perhaps a little too much wood, mixed with tart red currant, a bit of veg. In general this was a nice wine for the money. The finish showed more tart red fruit and a really nice acidity, and was for me the best part.

I enjoy this wine. It’s good value Spanish sip that would certainly please the masses at a dinner or gathering.

$23.99 @ Liberty Wine Merchants here in Vancouver.

3 1/2 stars

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2005 Bodegas J.C. Conde Neo Sentido, Ribera del Duero & Floyd Landis’ Road Shoes from Specialized

You may or may not know that along with being a wine and web geek, I’m also a road cycling geek. Speaking of cycling, a couple of weeks ago, bike clothing/accessories/bikes company Specialized (@iamspecialized – you can follow me at @vinifico) had a contest on Twitter where a re-tweet of their message would automatically enter you to win a pair of Floyd Landis‘ road shoes that had been worn during racing/training. Floyd has definitely been an inspiration to me, despite being stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win under controversial circumstances. He’s done his 2 year ban and is back racing for the North American-based OUCH Pro Cycling Team. Well, I entered… and actually won.

Today I received the US Postal package (a former team of Floyd’s where he raced along-side Lance Armstrong) and opened it to check out the shoes. They had definitely seen a few miles and Floyd hadn’t even bothered to remove his Speedplay cleats before sending them to the folks at Specialized for this contest. Pretty cool. They’re the BG Pro Road shoe in white with black. I have to admit that if they had been in a size 42, I would have probably worn them, but they’re a 44.5 – Floyd has some big feet for a 5’9″ guy.

Now to the cycling/wine tie-in… this weekend marks the start of the 3rd Grand Tour of the year, the Veulta a Espana. Floyd won’t be in the race (maybe next year), but I’ll be following it at Velonews.com and other sites. So, I felt like pairing the shoes with a beautiful Tempranillo from Spain’s Ribera del Deuro region that I had tasted last week –  the 2005 Bodegas J.C. Conde Neo Sentido. Check out the video.

~$38 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

2 comments

2007 Marqués de Vitoria ECCO Tempranillo, Rioja

I was sent this as an agent’s sample, so when we headed out to Graham’s last Saturday, I thought I’d take it along and get his opinion on it as well.

$15.95 at LDB stores here in BC.

Sean:
2.5 stars

Graham:
3 stars

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2006 Bodegas Valcarlos Fortius Tempranillo, Navarra

08052009Well now, here’s a bit of a find. When I received this bottle I wrote it off as a sub-$15 bottle of plonk. It’s a happy surprise to find that’s not the case at all.

Navarra is a Basque region in the North of Spain. The region extends from the Pyrenees Mountains to the edge of Rioja Baja. In the case of this wine, it has produced juice that has got that New World/Old World thing going on. It’s rustic, but also has modern soft fruit.

The colour is a bit different – it’s a pale cherry red in the glass. On the nose, it’s got dark cherries, licorice, clove and black pepper. A soft and juicy sip gives up warm ripe berry fruit, cherry and a lingering floral and softly syrupy edge to the medium-length finish.

I’m liking it. It’s a bit on the rustic side, but it’s  heckuva’ deal for the money. I’d buy it.

*Note: I received this as an agent’s sample.

$13.95 at LDB stores here in BC.

3 1/2 stars

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1999 Lopez de Heredia “Vina Tondonia” Reserva, Rioja

06022009I’ve always enjoyed seeking out things off the path. As a youth, I took great delight digging through the “bins” at the front of the record store (yes records) I worked at to find a gem that had been overlooked. Finding this wine reminded me of this.

1999. That grabbed me off the bat, but a nice Rioja at 30% off at the back of the store. Sold. This one is 75% tempranillo, 15% garnacha and 5% each of graciano and mazuel. from a family winery founded in 1877.

The other night I popped it open and decanted it. The wine was a nice garnet color with some enticing tawny hints at the edges. Great start! After a nice dinner it was time to dive in.

The nose had a nice blend of sweet spices and red fruit. Lots of cedar and anise with some light cherry and a noticeable felt tip marker edge. Interesting. A few post dinner swirls and slurps brought out more cherry and some plum to a medium body that I was glad I left until after eating. The finish was really interesting, more nice spice with some tobacco and really firm tannins and acidity. I found myself liking the finish more and more, looking forward to each sniff followed by some pretty serious tartness on the finish. This was a really cool bottle.

Even after 3 hours in the decanter, this wine certainly showed it has lots of years left in it. Kind of like finding David Bowie’s Low album in the bin for a couple of dollars way back when.

If you see it, dust it off and grab it!

$34 (regular $55) at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

5 comments

2005 Condado de Haza, Ribera del Duero Crianza

01192009This may be hitting the blog a bit late, but I’ve had a bunch of this wine over the last few months and have to get it up here. I even have to say that it was actually a bit of a mistake that this didn’t make my top wines of 2008 list. It should have been on there. It’s a kick-ass wine that I love. I just forgot to include it. It happens.

OK, wow. Every time I open a bottle of this wine, I wish I had 6 more to replace it. It’s just that good. There’s so much going on – dark cherry, blackberry, smoke, mineral, violets and coffee. All of these hit both the nose and the long-lasting, mineral-edged finish. It’s a smokin’ bottle of Tempranillo juice. The Wine Dictator gave it 93 points and rated it the #34 wine of 2008.

If you can find it, it’s also really worth buying a few to sit down for a while to see how it evolves with some age. I’m sure it will more than hold its own for years to come.

$31.99 at LDB stores here in BC (if you can find it).

4 1/2 stars

8 comments

2005 Celler del Roure Les Alcusses, Valencia

01152009This was one of those bottles that I picked up for 2 reasons – I love Spanish wine and I liked the label. Yep, even wine geeks buy a wine because of the label occasionally. :)

When I opened it and let it grab some air I knew I was in for something surprisingly tasty. The nose gives off a beautiful mix of ripe black cherry, berry and earth. A juicy sip was all about the ripe (yes, I used that word again, but it really applies here) cherry and berry along with a really nice earthy edge to the medium-long finish. I really liked it. It fills the mouth with its rich flavours.

It’s a blend of Tempranillo, Mourvédre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mando, which is a varietal indigenous to the Valencia area. What it all adds up to is a wine I’ll definitely buy again. Go look for it.

$24.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

1 comment

2004 Bodegas Y Viñedos Luna Beberide Tierras de Luna

This is, to me, one of those wines that successfully straddles the New World/Old World fence. It’s got all that New World sexy fruit and some of the Old World terrior-driven minerality to its flavours.

I picked it up last week at Kitsilano Wine Cellars on a staff recommendation (these folks love their wine) and popped it open tonight with some grilled Oyama elk sausages… and holy crap, this is my kinda’ wine. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Mencia that carries a healthy 14.4% booze.

I gave it some air and it opened up into a sexy nose of ripe and dark berry and cherry fruit, coffee and an earthy mineral edge. A big ‘ol sip gave me a balanced bunch of the dark fruit, sour cherry, a bit of leather and a bunch of tannins on the crisp and earthy finish.

What can I say? I loved this wine. If you can find it, take it home, give it an hour or 2 of air and enjoy.

$36 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

4 comments