Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Wines

Give Thanks for Simple Pleasures

Wine is a simple agricultural product. It has, for centuries, fed, nourished, pleased, and healed humanity, and has graced the tables of all but the tee-totaling cultures. Wine is meant to be consumed regularly with meals, and with pleasure.

Wine doesn't have to be expensive to deliver pleasure. I like wines that are priced to drink every day, even if that day is a holiday such as Thanksgiving.

A great way to deal with what to serve and what to pair on Thanksgiving is to offer a well-rounded selection, and nothing too dear.

Ruffino Prosecco DOC Italy $15
Fresh white peach and apple notes. Dry, light, and crisp sparkler.

Sofia Rosé Monterey County $18
Tart cranberry and pomegranate, pumpkin pie spice, and juicy strawberry notes.

2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé  Blanc Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley $34
Rich, intense, and full with soft melon, apple and apricot fruit and inviting, mellow vanilla and honey notes.

2012 Steven Kent Chardonnay Merrillie Vineyard Livermore Valley $34
Soft, buttery, and fragrant with notes of pear and lemon meringue pie.

2012 Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand $14
Light and tart with cranberry, cherry and candied orange peel notes.

2012 Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise and Shine Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand $33
Deep and ripe with plum, blackberry, cherry cobbler notes.

2011 Stoller Estate Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Oregon $25
Medium bodied with dark berry fruit, vanilla bean and cedar spice.

2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Clos de Gilroy Grenache Central Coast $20
Jazzy and bright with notes of strawberry, rhubarb, kirsch and white pepper.

2009 Trione Vineyards Syrah Russian River Valley $35
Velvety and sexy with berry, rose petal and spice notes.

2011 Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Claret Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley $18
Classic notes of cassis, plum, and vanilla. Beautifully balanced and very elegant.

2012 Assembly Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi $15
Juicy, mouthwatering Zin – the life of the party!

2011 Kenwood Jack London Zinfandel Sonoma Valley $20
A serious, complex, almost formal Zin, with red berry notes, clove, and mint.

Hawk and Horse Latigo Dessert Cabernet Sauvignon Red Hills Lake County 375ml $45
Fragrant and intense with notes of dark chocolate, crème caramel and vanilla bean. Delicious on its own, with Pumpkin pie, or with a Cuban cigar.

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Southern Italy Fall Release Report

From the hot, dry, challenging 2012 vintage across Italy’s south and islands, look for success stories including the 2012 Cusamano Benuara Sicilia IGP $18, Nero d’Avola with 30% Syrah, a nice crossover style for glass pours and the holiday table.

The 2012 De Lucia Falanghino Sannio DOC $22 from Campania, is a round, creamy, softly-textured and citrusy wine with hints of yellow rose and Strega. Sannio, inland near the border of Molise, has been producing wines from this grape since Pre-Roman times. 

The benchmark 2012 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina del Sannio DOC $18, from high elevation vineyards near Irpinia, is slightly richer, more intensely minerally, and has a bitter orange note that would complement a similar flavors in a dish, such as prawns with orange and coriander or spaghetti with orange and anchovy. From clay and limestone soils of sun-drenched Puglia, the 2012 Castello Monaci Acante Fiano Salento IGT $16 gives a much fruitier profile than it does in Campania, with grilled pineapple, quince, and roasted almond notes. Try this with pasta with milder Padron peppers, olive oil, and slivered almonds or pine nuts, and grated Grana Padana. The fragrant, peachy and slightly nutty 2012 Cantine Dolianova Prendas Vermentino de Sardegna DOC $15 will pair beautifully with char-grilled fish with its bright, juicy fruit and clean finish. 

Alessio, Francesca, and Santi Planeta

The 2012 Planeta La Segreta Sicilia DOC $14, a blend of 50% Grecanico, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier, and 10% Fiano, was a pleasant surprise considering it’s turquoise screw cap and simple label, which, hand in hand with its new DOC should help it find many homes here. It is light with lemon, slivered almond and apricot notes – very appealing as a starter, or with lighter fish and shellfish dishes, especially more delicate, sweeter, and more softly textured fish.

The organically-farmed 2012 Masseria del Feudo 
Bianco Inzolia-Grillo Il Giglio Sicilia DOC $16 is fresh and snappy with that little hint of white flower, petrol, and hazelnut found more commonly in the north, and is elegant enough to pour or pair in the most formal dining rooms. I wouldn’t say that about this slightly feistier one however. If you haven’t tried Italy’s first DOCG Rosato, here is your chance. The 2012 Rivera Pungirosa Castel del Monte Bombino Nero DOCG $16 is deeply fruity with notes of  rosehip and white mushroom and works well with light dishes such as orrechiette with broccolini.

The 2011 Tenuta Rapitala Campo Reale Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT $14 is a soft, mellow and floral-accented expression of Sicily’s finest grape, and pairs nicely with pizza, sausages or roast chicken. Mantonico Bianco is by many accounts the offspring of Soave’s Garganega and a possible parent of local Gaglioppo and Sicily’s Nero Mascallese. More often made in a sweet passito style, this dry, round, soft and slighty bitter white, the 2011 Statti Mantonico Calabria IGT $16, illustrates the rich potential of this often overlooked region.

Very internationally appealing, the 2010 Donnafugata Sedara Sicilia IGP $15, a
Nero d’Avola blend with international varieties, gives notes of Ben and Jerry Cherry Garcia and a soft lush texture.  One of Sicily’s benchmark Nero d’Avola’s, the elegant, more formal 2008 Donnafugata Mille e una Notte Contessa Entellina DOC $85 is at the opposite end of the spectrum, with extensive selection and barrel aging in mostly new French oak. Another, the powerful and earthy 2008 Tasca D'Almerita Rosso del Conte Contea di Sclafani DOC $68 is also aged in French oak, and able to age gracefully for 15 or more years.

Sleek and powerful like a Chateau Mouton-Cadet but powerfully seductive like a Fire-engine red Ferrari, Campania’s 2005 Quintodecimo Vigna Quintodecimo Taurasi Riserva DOCG $148 is a very modern, organically-farmed Taurasi, made with the world’s most tannic grape, Aglianico. It is still very young and would benefit from decanting before serving. Pair with your richest meat dishes. The winery also has a slightly less intense version, the 2009 Quintodecimo Terra d’Eclano Aglianico Irpinia DOC $50. Also check out newly imported 2010 Villa Raiano Aglianico Campania IGT $22, a rich, velvety and slightly aggressive red with chocolate covered cherries, earth, leather, spice, and a beautiful sage/Fernet Branca finish.

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Northern California Fall Release Report

Toast to another great year with the tart strawberry, lemon peel, and Campari-esque nv Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence Mendocino County $18. Despite unusually cool weather throughout much of the North Coast in August, particularly in Napa Valley, 2013 is looking similar to 2012 in both quantity and quality. Lodi and Lake County enjoyed an even, Mediterranean summer, with Lodi cooled by Delta breezes and Lake County by altitude. While we won’t see those wines until next year, some 2012’s in the pipeline to watch for include the 2012 Argus Chardonnay Atlas Peak Napa Valley $24, with honeysuckle and quince notes and a soft apple-butter finish,
the lemony 2012 Vigilance Sauvignon Blanc Red Hills Lake County $15, bone dry with a rich vein of volcanic minerality, the 2012 Trione Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley $23, rich, creamy with a Chateau Carbonnieux-like vein of gooseberry, and the fresh and easy 2012 Dry Creek Vineyards Dry Chenin Blanc Clarksburg $12 from a vineyard in the Sacramento Delta just outside Lodi. Producers are ecstatic about 2012 reds as well. Marissa Lange of Lange Twins in Lodi says, “2012 was universally spectacular.”  Tony Britton, winemaker for Marimar Estate adds, “2012 was the perfect growing season, nice and even. Everyone is completely stoked.”

His 2011 Marimar Estate Chardonnay Don Miguel Vineyard “Acero” Russian River Valley $29 is peachy and round with butter but no oak, in the trend that is upsetting barrel makers (Acero is Spanish for “steel’).
In its second release, the 2011 DuMol Estate Chardonnay Russian River Valley $55 is creamy and tangy, Meursault-like, with a feral quality and minerality. 2011 was cooler and more difficult, but with wines like the 2011 Harney Lane Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi $35 you’d never know it. An absolute steal and made with 109 year old vines, it has layers of chocolate, raspberry, cherry cola, and tar and subtle vanilla from aging in French oak. The 2011 Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Zinfandel $30, made with 90-year old vines, is dark, rich and spicy, perfect for the cooler months ahead. 
The 2011 Sorelle Winery Sangiovese Troppo Bella Lodi $25 is full-bodied with deep cherry notes and a tart finish, very Mediterranean in style.

The dark, fruity, and very tannic 2011 Rosa D’Oro Aglianico Lake County $24 is a standout but like its counterparts in Campania needs food to really shine.
This unique Carmenere-based Bordeaux blend, 2011 Trigrammaton Nova Vineyard Yolo County $35 from Pietro Buttita of Rosa D’Oro, is elegant with rich red fruits and very subtle oak spice. The 2011 Dutton-Goldfield Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir Green Valley of Russian River Valley $58 is savory, minty, and floral and has that classic Green Valley sarsaparilla. New Arista winemaker Matt Courtney has just released their 2011 Arista Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $45, a sinewy, richly fruity Pinot, a total opposite to Nathan Kandler’s punchy raspberry and cherry fruited 2011 Thomas Fogarty Rapley Trail Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains $55. 
The 2011 Esterlina Estate Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $45 may be their best ever, with dark berry fruit, a bit of mocha, and a fresh, tart cranberry finish. The balanced but big, bright, bold, and spicy 2011 Martinelli Zio Tony Ranch “Grace Nicole” Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $60 is not for everyone at 15.1%, while the 2011 Brassfield Estate Winery Eruption Volcano Ridge Vineyard High Valley Lake County $24, rich and juicy at the same time, with bold deep dark berry fruit and spice and a zesty strawberry finish is more of a crowd pleaser. A premium selection for the holidays, the 2011 Shafer Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley $50 is a sensuous, sleek, rich and full-bodied beauty.

From a cooler vintage, the well-bred and impressive 2010 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red Napa Valley $150 offers layers of blackcurrant, fig, wildflowers, grilled meats and smoke, while the 2010 Cloud’s Rest Pinot Noir Femme Fatale Sonoma Coast $38 is delicate and earthy with rich bright fruit, cherry tomato and mushroom notes. Marco Capelli’s 2010 Miraflores Methode Ancienne Syrah Estate El Dorado $26 is a more delicate Foothills Syrah reflecting a St. Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage style.

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.