Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir from Left Coast Cellars

Left Coast Cellars Pinot NoirPinot Noir can come in light ruby to deep burgundy.  The color is not going to be a reliable guide to the intensity of flavors with this grape.  What you should be able to rely on more and what indicates a good Pinot Noir is the intensity and complexity of the aroma in this aromatic grape.  This thin-skinned grape can deliver an aroma that leaps out of the glass.

Left Coast Cellars 2012 Cali’s Cuvee is medium intense with a typical Pinot aroma of strawberries, blended with wood tones of vanilla and spice.  Imagine juicy fresh acidic strawberries, married with the broader flavors of vanilla, cedar, and wine lees if you can.  And if you can’t, taste this wine!  There is also a brininess that gives the wine character.

On the palate, the flavors mingle and refresh the mouth, crying out for some counterpoint in food, such as a nice roast (the wine will dominate) or lightly grilled red meat (both will counter play each other) as well as a creamy cheese (the tannins will almost disappear).  The 2012 vintage will go down as a very good one for Oregon.

Rating: 91+ and worth the price

Emotional Rating:  pleasing with depth, but not as rich as some more expensive Pinot’s can be.  A solid 90+

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“COMPLEXITY” Should Be this Syrah’s Name!

Columbia Crest H3 Syrah Columbia Crest Coyote Canyon Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills 2011

  • Deep ruby
  • Well extracted
  • Visual appeal that prepares you for the richness of the wine.
  • Caramel, dark chocolate, butter, warm toast, vanilla, coconut, dark fruit ripe blackberry, blackcurrant, with hints of hazelnut and a slight meatiness

This wine is round and very complex.!

Complexity is its theme.  Complexity is a description of a wine that exhibits layers of flavors, one after the other, revealing themselves in whiff after whiff and taste after taste.

Making a wine like this requires great skill in finding the right moment to end its oak home and transfer it to the bottle for further development.  A little more oak and this wine would be unbalanced in its flavors.  Stronger layers of oak would predominate and rob the wine of a chance to display the contribution of its fruit.  The right moment was found.

Wine is a marriage of flavors and texture — in a good wine it’s a union destined to harmony and happiness.  A harmonious wine finishes as it begins: with layers of flavor fading in consort and giving the impression of team play at its best.  While fruit and oak support each other, the sum of its parts is surpassed by the creation of new blended tastes.  Taste this wine again and again as you discover more of its hidden excitement.

Smoothness in this wine is more than a velvety mouthfeel, more than the seamlessness of its finish.  It is the experience of each flavor enhancing the other flavors and each taking a well deserved bow in choreographic perfection.

I could drink this wine (moderately of course) for ever and still sing the praises of its sensual delights.  Avoid this to your impoverishment.  The only thing that keeps this from classic ratings is a slight diminishing of depth in the back of the palate.

Rating:  93 (almost 94)

Emotional rating:  How do you describe sensuous delight?  Enjoy a wine to be savored to the last drop.

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Llano Estacado’s Viviano 2010 Superiore Rosso

(In this article you will find comments on complexity, the effects of oak, and a representation of the Old World in the New World)

Llano Estadado's "Viviano"

Llano Estadado’s “Viviano”

This blend (Cabernet Sauvignon 70%, Sangiovese 30%) reminds the wine lover of a Super Tuscan marriage of grapes.   Llano Estacado, a large Texas Winery that has earned its reputation as one of the Lone Star State’s best wineries, produces this wine that is one of the state’s best wines and it deserves your close attention.  Contact the winery to see whether it can be shipped to your state and then follow the experience of this wine tasting with me.

Medium ruby, clear, clean, and bright, with aromas of earth, truffle, vanilla, smoke, clove, mineral suggestions, spice, cedar, leather, and dried cherries demand the term “complex.”  Complex flavors are not just a multiple of tastes but also the creation of new taste experiences that make tasting wines so much more interesting than just the identification of aromas.  Gripping fruit and oak tannins that tame as the wine breathes will endear this wine to steak (the wine insists Texas steak, of course).

This wine has spent 40 months in new French and American oak and its long tenure has shown how more time in oak is not necessarily more oak on the palate.  The oak has softened and integrated with the cherry flavored base of the wine.  The nose and palate are so complex that you keep getting impressed with new offerings on every sip.    It is not a reminder of Napa but of the Old World, with its lighter punch and its obvious finesse and minerality.  After the rich models of Napa and the heavy wines from Barossa Valley in Australia, this wine is a refreshing journey into the world of “less is better.”

The fruit, as you will already have gathered, is not in your face but is married and melded into the oak flavors, creating new and developing excitement as you drink.  It should age well and its tertiary flavors should constantly surprise as the ongoing chemical actions in the bottle reveal the wine’s as yet unknown charms.    However, notice how the finish evolves.  The fruit vanishes first; the oak lingers longer, and then the heat of the alcohol and the acid fade away slowly after a long, slow departure.  We would call this a medium finish because when we refer to the length of the finish we mean the way the fruit and oak flavors last, not any other lasting effects from the wine’s characteristics, such as alcohol or acid.

The grapes were picked at 24.5 brix (the sugar level at harvest), so it does not display any overripe fruit, such as very ripe plum or prune flavors.

Rating:  89+

Emotional rating?  For those who love the wines of the Old World and worship the wonders of the marriage of fruit and oak, it is a wine that will thrill and ring long lasting emotional bells.

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Ruby Trust’s 2012 Gunslinger

Let’s do a bit of a comparison between Ruby Trust‘s 2013 “Gambler” (discussed earlier this month) and their 2012 “Gunslinger” — both full, lush Colorado wines.

We could hardly say that this blend is a lighter wine than Ruby Trust’s “Gambler.”  Syrah at 50%, Cabernet Sauvignon at 33%, and Petit Verdot atGunslinger 2012 17% would hardly lessen the weight of the 100% Syrah in “The Gambler.”  Both are hefty at almost 16% alcohol.  The Gunslinger is a little lighter in color and has a different flavor profile.  Blackcurrant and cedar, with hints of herbaceousness (a trademark of Cabernet Sauvignon) plus red fruit flavors from Petit Verdot combine to brighten the aroma and add zest to the mouthfeel.  Minerality and acids are a little higher to the taste in the “Gunslinger” than in “The Gambler” and the overall effect is a juicy, mouthwatering wine that cleanses the palate and would brighten any rich dish.  A long, clean finish seals the wine’s title for being a full, succulent red.

Tannins are fine and balanced, although a little stronger than in “The Gambler.”   Both wines are winners in the heavy-weight department.

Rating:  90+

Emotional rating: Very High

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The New World’s Version of Rioja: Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo

Pedernales Tempranillo Reserve 2012 Pedernales Tempranillo 2012

In the heart of Texas is a winery that specializes in the Spanish grape, Tempranillo.  With a memorable view over the Pedernales River Valley from its spacious deck and an impressive tasting room, Pedernales Cellars is a sure stop on your Texas wine trail.

Tempranillo is Spain’s response to France’s Cabernet Sauvignon.  As we expect, this Tempranillo is light ruby in color and it is clear and bright.  American oak makes its presence known with coffee, leather, and a little cedar that control the aromas.  Earthiness and meatiness set up the savory notes and an evident minerality rounds out the first real indication of the Tempranillo grape.   The fruit aromas are reserved with hints of dark fruit, while a little greenishness settles around the edges.  The texture is pleasant and smooth.  Strong but fine tannins are well integrated and add to the savory character of the wine.  Fresh acids and a medium-long, crisp finish end the appeal of a well made wine.  It should be consumed within two to eight years of harvest.

For a Tempranillo, this is an excellent New World representation of “Rioja.”

Rating 91

Emotional  rating:  91

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Creekside Cellars Merlot 2011

Creekside 2011 MerlotIn Colorado Merlot is a variety that produces reasonably well and can, in ideal spots, rise to very acceptable levels of quality.  Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is most likely to have a common parent: Cabernet Franc.  No wonder they blend so harmoniously to better each other in either structure or soft lush fruit.  Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot sport a similar fruit profile: blackberry, blackcurrant, plum, and dark cherry form the common fruit expectation from both wines.  Whereas Cab is firmer and more tannic, Merlot excels with its lush, juicy fruit and its softer texture.  “Cabernet Sauvignon without the bite” is the old distinguishing adage.  Merlot favors clay soils and, hence, ideal spots should offer more of what it likes.

This offering from Creekside Cellars is one of the leading Merlots in Colorado. The oak treatment is now coming into its own together with an appealing lush and velvety mouthfeel.  Typical dark fruit and tannins that are more bold than many Californian examples, together with its own hint of minerality, signal the high altitude, intense sunlight and cool nights.  The acid is firm and this wine demonstrates what Colorado Merlot can be.

Serve at 65 degrees.  A debut in the 50’s will hide the fullness of its fruit.

Rating: a solid 89

Emotional rating hinges on your appreciation of fine tannins that are noticeable and a Merlot that shows finesse with a lush character.  For me, it is an emotionally wonderful wine that arrives at my 94 appreciation level.  Tannins, lushness, and finesse — that’s it in a nutshell.  Get it while you can.

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Settembre Cellars – a Colorado Chardonnay

Three months in new oak imparts to this wine a warm spice and vanilla character that is Settembre Chardonnaynoticeable on first sniff.  The oak aromas overlay and mingle with the fresh fruit.  Apple and raw almond notes with hints of apricot dance on our senses.  The texture is smooth and rich with a beautiful flavored finish.

Blake Eliason, the winemaker, has made every effort to preserve the delicate aromas of the wine.  He starts by harvesting early to keep the finer fruit flavors of the grape intact, producing a wine with finesse.  There is a lot of debate as to whether filtering dulls the flavors of a wine, but he has opted for an unfiltered wine in an attempt to again preserve as much as possible of the wine’s delicacy.  You are the judge, so ask yourself: has the winemaker achieved a delicate expression of Chardonnay?  Do you like the blend of fruit and oak?

Complex wines depend on the preservation of the grape’s flavors, the development of further flavors in the fermentation process, and the creating of yet more flavors in the aging of the wine.  This wine is young and aging has had little opportunity to register its effect.  Complexity also depends on producing more than the sum of the wine’s parts.  Has this wine layered one flavor on another, folding them in on each other to make new, interesting flavors that remind you of more than fruit and oak?  Blake’s goal for his Chardonnay is a pretty bouquet and a polished finish.  My opinion is he has achieved these goals.

We can learn a lot from this wine when we concentrate and think about how it has been fashioned.  Each of our opinions are valid.  It’s your emotional response that matters most.

Rating 88+

Emotional rating will depend on what style of Chardonnay you appreciate.  Those who love the contribution of new oak and the velvety texture will rate this pleasingly high.

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ECW Vol 2 Cover

Ruby Trust’s “The Gambler, 2013″ — A Syrah Worth Every Dollar!

Gambler 2012 - AThe cork has been pulled and we will evaluate this wine with and without an hour’s breathing.

It is opaque, clear, and bright with a purply edge.  Its youth is evident.  It’s “legs” run slow, indicating the viscosity of this 14.9% alcohol wine.  I stopped counting the wicking effect as the legs reformed for their fourth time!

Dark aromas predominate on the nose, accompanied by dark chocolate, an underlying foundation of ripe blackberry, a slight touch of smoke, old leather, the softened remains of burnt rubber (which would have been much more pronounced when tasted in barrel), toast, and the benchmark of meatiness.  On the palate, the fruit comes through with a rush of richness on a silky texture — perfectly balanced.   The tannins are well integrated and fine, and they appear to be dominantly from the oak.  They don’t pucker your mouth or dry your throat, but are evident on the aftertaste.

On to the next stage of enjoyment:  the finish is very long and the coating of the palate seems to last almost endlessly.  Deep, dark flavors with a cleansing acid that makes a great food wine competes for attention with the wine’s complexity.  It is a wine well worth the price.

Buy two, three or more bottles.  Lay two down and enjoy the others in their expressive youth.  Those you lay down for 3-5 years will surprise you with the flavors that develop in such a fruit- and oak-rich wine.  This wine can be laid down for a long time if you choose.  We all have special occasions and, without embarrassment, this will “wow” your friends and any knowledgable wine lover.  Can’t afford this much?  There is a less expensive Syrah-based blend from Ruby Trust called Gunslinger.  That’s next weeks write up.

Rating:  93

Emotional rating?  If you love full and rich wines, this one will ring your pleasure bell at 98!

After breathing for an hour, little change was noted.  The nose had muted a little, the mouthfeel kept its richness and the finish was very similar.  Conclusion:  this wine does not need breathing or may require much more time to notice any significant change.  Change, however, in my opinion is not needed.

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You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

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ECW Vol 2 Cover