Colorado’s Garett Estate — Unusual Red Blend: “Pheasant Run Red, 2012”

Garett Estate Winery’s Pheasant Run Red, 2012.

Garrett - Pheasant Run Red 2012

Garrett – Pheasant Run Red 2012

A blend of Syrah and Merlot is not found in every winery.  There are indications that in the very early days of Bordeaux, wines from upriver and from the Rhone (Syrah) was blended with the Bordeaux varietals.  Hence this blend is not new.  Many Cabernet Sauvignons in the New World are blended today with Syrah and in most cases with other varieties as well.  Merlot does not feature as often with Syrah and certainly not as a common blend.  Therefore, this is a wine to experience since the flavors of the two grapes combine to produce a dark fruit and evident oak background in which the blend of flavors is the dominant effect.  The Merlot mellows the characteristics of the Syrah.

It is an everyday, quaffable wine and, for the price, a good buy — especially if you like a red that reminds you of the heavy rustic variety of wine.  This wine will stain your teeth!  Little acid shows up initially, but it comes through on the finish giving you a final cleansing effect that is so good when matching it with rich meats.  A background of dark fruit climaxes in a medium acid finish that is fresh and mouthwatering.  Warm tones, like chords in a closely knit harmony, reflect the warmth of the site on which the grapes are grown.  A commendable table wine.

Rating: 85

Emotional rating:  A warm winter wine that leaves a happy wallet.

Available:  Distributed in Colorado.

A Thanksgiving “Must Have”: Beaujolais Nouveau — Best In a Long Time!

Beaujolais Nouveau 2015

Beaujolais Nouveau 2015

2015 Beaujolais Nouveau by Georges Duboeuf— The Best In a Long Time!

Yes, this is the best Beaujolais Nouveau I have tasted in years.  Get some and try it for yourself.  It is dense and dark with a depth seldom found in this first of the season wine.  The Gamay grape is at its best and its 13% alcohol speaks of the hope of a well balanced wine, which you will soon experience as you taste.

You can’t expect too much of this very young wine.  It is still rather one dimensional, but its flavors hold very well and are deeper and richer than usual.  Raspberry dominates with a smooth mouthfeel, no rough edges, and a pleasant, short finish that is simply mouth watering and begs for another sip.

The typical purply meniscus is enriched at the core to a bright red color and if you view it at a full 5 oz pour, it is not far from opaque.  Truly a delightful quaffing wine of note and a bright, refreshing turkey dinner companion.

Rating:  86

Emotional rating:  Pour me another glass, please!

A Vineyard to Watch — Is Malbec a Natural for Colorado?

Vineyards of Palisade, CO in the Grande Valley AVA

Vineyards of Palisade, CO in the Grande Valley AVA

Malbec shows promise in Colorado, but its real possibilities are still to be revealed with the maturing of Colterris’ idilic vineyard that falls south to southwest off the highest irrigated site on the East Orchid Mesa.

The grapes are now in their fourth year free from winter kill (thankfully) and the long wait is almost over.  It can be a winemaker’s and vineyard manager’s culmination of a dream or the slow burn of a long-term anxiety as they wait all those years from planting to the first full harvest, particularly if the site is new, as this one is.  In my opinion, expectations run very high for this Malbec vineyard, which to all indications fits the profile of a prime Argentinian site: impoverished, dry, stoney soil with irrigation control and cool nights to hold acidity and giving a promise of delicate fruit flavors.  Also, the warm days and intense high altitude sunlight to ripen the tannins and deepen the phenolics provide dense colors and all those tantalizing palate sensations.

September 2015

In mid September of 2015, I visited this vineyard.  The grapes, luscious and rich with burgeoning flavors, were at 21.5 brix.  The skins, when chewed, were beginning to give up their flavors.  It’s been a long wait, as usual, from planting to the first full harvest, but at Colterris’ idyllic vineyard, as everywhere, nature moves at its own pace.  As we examined the vineyard for what only taste can tell, expectations increased.  The fruit will be at its youthful best this year and the last weeks of this ripening season have turned out just right.  Colterris has three Malbec clones planted in two vineyards, offering distinct characteristics.  Spice from one clone, depth and fullness from another, and the addition of a firm structure from the third.  Still hidden are the full mix of flavors that will give the winemaker just what he wants: lots of potential to work with.

Three Weeks Later

At last harvest has arrived and the grapes are picked at 25-26 prix, depending on the precise location, and the hopes for a great wine are further confirmed.  I’m tasting a Malbec wine as I write, not from this vineyard but from the 2013 harvest in Argentina, and a delightful aroma of violets and spices greets me, served up on a palate of dark fruits.  All this rests in a firm yet juicy acid structure.  The tannins are soft and ripe, exactly what we have come to expect from an Argentinian Malbec.  Most of the vines in Colterris’ new vineyard are cuttings from this same place:  Mendoza, the jewel of Argentinian Malbec and the recognized Mecca for Malbec world-wide, producing wines that are soft, velvety and powerful.

Colterris’ vines are healthy and so obviously in love with their new location.  Their searching roots, now deep in the arid, stoney soil, have hopefully found the mineral riches grapes love and the Grand Valley AVA offers.  Colorado Malbecs that I have tasted so far are somewhere between the dark savoriness (some would say harshness) of a Cahors and the lushness and velvety texture of the Argentinian fruit.  I’m waiting to see if this vineyard is going to show more of the delicate fruit and lush character found in the Argentinian Malbec I’m tasting as I write, and I expect it will.  As the vines age, more will become evident, but some great Malbecs for Colorado could be forthcoming.

Why do wine grapes generate such promise and stir such hope?  How is it that wine yet to be ushered into existence can create such warm feelings of anticipation?  Is it the way our imaginations overtake our senses, stimulating our memories for a drink we have learned to love?  Yes, and the more we respond to its promises, the more we salivate.  Experiencing wine is experiencing it first in anticipation, then in the moment of physical pleasure, and finally, many times again in memory.  It’s the experience of awaiting the unknown because wine does not promote in advance its secrets and pleasures.  Teasing us, it makes us guess and predict, which is the fun of expectation that begins long before the grape transforms itself into wine.

We came from the soil as the ancient text reads, “formed out of the dust of the ground.”  So, as we walk the rows, we feel that bond with all that is natural around us.  There is life in the soil, the vines, the wine to be, and in us.  Is the magic in the bond we feel or in the hope that seemingly enters us with each breath we take?  Life itself is a mystery and all these emotions of promise await the moment when at last we drink the transformed juice and mystery vanishes into exciting reality.

From vineyard to bottle

This is a Malbec vineyard to be envied for its potential.  Will the potential translate into an exceptional wine?  Again, I think so.  We’ll know soon enough though, and I hope you will explore the results with me.  Colorado needs investments like this that will determine its potential and define its stature among winemaking regions.


Wine that Is a Feast for the Eyes and More

14 hands Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Reserve

14 Hands 2012 Cab Sauv Reserve

14 Hands 2012 Cab Sauv Reserve

This wine is a feast for the eyes.  Rich, deep, dark Cabernet Sauvignon is always a pleasure to engage with emotionally.  It’s color invites appreciation and awakens the best of expectations.  It’s a promising beginning for an experience with this wine.

The aroma does not disappoint either, with fruit and oak in a harmonious marriage that gives birth to smells so complex it is hard to find lines of demarcation between one aroma and another.  The mouthfeel is velvety and the tannins, both firm and fine, are displayed in a perfect balance of acidic vibrancy — not too much, not too little.  The finish is luscious with dark fruit flavors and rich, sweet oak notes on a long, enduring farewell.  It delivers a message of its quality and power with the promise of more pleasures to come as it ages.

Of special note is the return with power of the brightness and depth of blackcurrant fruit on the finish.  This is a great Cab!  Buy and enjoy it with your best cut of red meat or with fabulous cheeses that you are keeping for that very special occasion.  And enjoy the value as this is offered at a very friendly price.

Horse Heaven Hills is a featured location in Washington’s winemaking history.  Its vineyards are already famous for their full-flavored fruit.  As a basaltic uplift, separating the Columbia and Yakima rivers, it is benefited by the modifying temperatures from the rivers.  The fruit has an exciting expression of richness and brightness.  14 Hands is a winery to watch.  Stay tuned for a verbal experience of its equally notable Chardonnay.

Rating: 93

Emotional rating:  Not too heavy or tiresome, but just right for a great experience of Cab.  As good as a Washington Cab can get, and that’s great!

Availability?  The 14 Hands wines are widely distributed.


More Depth and Great Appeal for a Modest Price

Kiona Cabernet/Merlot

Kiona Cabernet/Merlot

Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 

This wine is less complex than the Enzo Bianchi described in my previous post, but very impressive for a price tag of $15.  A deep wine, with the character of Red Mountain AVA fruit from the Columbia Valley.  It exudes blackberry and dark berry flavors with a nice marriage of vanilla, leather, and toast.  The bright edge to the wine is probably due to the mix of grapes that lifts its mellow depths and gives it so much  more than you would expect.  Cabernet Sauvignon at 50%, Merlot 15%, Syrah 13%, Carmenere 9%, Sangiovese 8%, Malbec and Cabernet Franc 2% each, and 1% Petit Verdot make for quite a lineup and contribute to its complexity.

When comparing this with the Enzo Bianchi, its not apples with apples, but appeal to appeal. There is less of an up-front powerful display of character but a presentation of a smooth and luscious wine that has no faults and just wants you to sit back, drink, and enjoy its pleasures.  It doesn’t jump at you like the Enzo.  Rather it commends itself for its quiet display of rich Cabernet that seems not to exclude any blending partner.  This is a very good everyday wine with more depth than the price suggests and a far greater appeal.  It even has a more viscous texture and equal softness.  You will love this wine and still have a heavy wallet.  You will generally note that the staying power of the aromas and flavors in a less expensive wine are not as persistent.

Cabernet is a perfect foundation for a red wine.  It can also be fleshed out with other grapes to  accommodate the winemaker in the pursuit of that unusual, but still traditional, wine.

If you are tasting the Enzo side-by-side with the Kiona (a great price difference), smell the empty glasses and note how the Enzo, even in an empty glass, is still hanging on as though it it is clinging to the glass and will be there tomorrow.

Rating: 88

Emotional rating:  I come away loving its difference and wanting more.

Available:  In most places across the USA.