Colterris Cabernet Franc 2013 – Stunning!

IMG_1434Colterris has excellent vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.  A smaller vineyard of Petit Verdot rounds out their choices.  I have tasted, from 2009 to the present, notable Colterris Cabernet Sauvignons.  Malbec is still young and beginning to produce, but their Cabernet Franc is a wine that may outclass their previous successes.

The wine is a deep ruby, almost opaque, bright and clear.  The varietal character is demonstrated with a herbaceous note that is expected in the Cabernet family but not overdone or crudely dominant as it is in some Francs.  Complex notes waft out of a pleasing base of harmonious fruit and oak.  Aromas of licorice, coffee grounds, black current, pencil shavings, and vanilla with a pleasant floral quality rise from a viscous, juicy wine.  Mineral characteristics will call to mind the warm gravel of the Colterris vineyards.  The acids keep the wine fresh and vibrant, cleaning the fattiness of rich foods, which it would naturally enhance.

Cabernet Franc is a wine that is finding new appeal around the world.  It is usually forgotten that one of the Bordeaux heavy weights, Chateau Cheval Blanc, a St. Emillion first growth, is about two-thirds Cabernet Franc.  Colorado has a future with this grape that seems to find another home in its Grand Valley AVA.  The expression it finds in Colterris’s 2013 vintage displays lower tannins, color, and body than a full Cabernet Sauvignon but for Franc, it is rich and in great balance with a polished, smooth texture and a medium to long finish.  All Cabernet Sauvignon lovers could do well to try this highly rated wine.

Rating:  91+

Emotional rating?  Let me weigh in:  It is an emotional delight, a wine to be remembered at an appealing 96 points!

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Food and Wine: A Natural Affinity — Truffles and Nebbiolo

Barolo Grill BarRecently I was privileged to eat at the annual Barolo Grill “Truffle Dinner,” thanks to a generous friend.   All the courses were lifted to culinary heaven by the addition of shaved truffles or truffle glazes and were paired with Gianni Gagliardo wines from Piedmont in Italy.  The Barolos (100% Nebbiolo with their amazing delicate floral aromas reminiscent of violets and roses plus more earthy aromas of truffles and licorice) were a match second to none.  Barolo is sometimes called the “King of Wine” and truffles, “the diamonds of the kitchen” — worthy descriptions.

Italian white truffles are very highly esteemed and their strong earthiness is often described as syrupy sweet, although I would hail their savory characteristics.  Truffles are found the world over and the first black truffles from the southern hemisphere were discovered in Gisborne, New Zealand in 1993.  If you ever have a chance to indulge in truffles from any region, pair them with a noble Barolo and you will be delighted and taste ecstasy.

The Barolos, “Serre” and “Preve,” were outstanding and rated in the 90’s.  Aged in wood for 30 months, they revealed all that you might expect from this noble grape.  Check out the number of Barolos on the wine list at Barolo Grill.

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Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2014

Beaujolais 2014This is a perfect learner’s wine.  Let me walk you through its lessons.  First, examine the wine for clarity.  It is as clear as crystal, the first indication of a well made wine.  The color is a light blueish red, more of a rose-red, indicating a young wine.  Whenever you see a blueish tinge, think “young.”  The grape (Gamay) is a red grape as indicated by the wine’s color.  But the light color can be an indication that the winemaker did not leave it very long on its skins or the grape is a thin-skinned grape.

The aromas leap out of the glass — very aromatic — and all are fruit aromas.  The presence of only fruit aromas tells us it has seen no time in oak aging.  Lightish raspberry flavors mingle with cherry and strawberry in a fresh, vibrant burst of fruit.  In the aroma, there is no indication of alcohol or of a dominant acid, meaning the wine may, on tasting it, prove to be well-balanced — and it is.  The flavors are clean and on the palate, the wine is soft and pleasing, maintaining its flavors.

No faults are evident in the winemaking, just the emphasis on a young, lively red wine.  Nutty flavors, as well as woody, earthy and animal aromas are absent.  There are no spices either.  A slight hint of minerallity can be detected, suggesting it is from the Old World.

After a few sips, the tannins begin to make themselves apparent, but we could hardly call the wine astringent.  The aftertaste is smooth, not bitter from excessive harsh tannins, but the flavor is gone as fast as you can swallow, meaning the finish is very short.

All of this helps the learner discern how a red wine, without oak and without any aging, can taste.  Hopefully you will also have gained an insight into what a wine without complexity — a one-dimensional wine — is like.  Wine must develop to be complex.  This year’s Beaujolais is priced around $10 and provides for us an inexpensive lesson.

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Lagrein — Try It This Winter!

Have you heard of it?  This wine is from a rare Italian grape.  Only 750 acres areLagrein 2 planted in the Alto Adige region in Northeast Italy.  The grape, called Lagrein, can produce reds that are tannic and full of character.  If you’ve had Lagrein and you noticed a slight bitterness on the finish, it is typical of this wine.  Italians love their bitters and that element in this wine makes it a great food wine.

History:  We are told the grape is mentioned in the 17th century in a Northeast Italian monastery’s records, so it is much older than many of the varieties we regard as our classic grapes today.  It is, perhaps, named after the Lagarina Valley of Trentino.  DNA links it with another grape from the same region that is also strong in tannin and color: Teroldego.  Teroldego can be a lively, fruity wine, sporting a very deep color, and is usually fashioned with smooth tannins.

My current example — the 2011 Alto Adige Lagrein, bottled by Abbazia di Novacella — is a deep ruby red and  opaque at the core.  The fruit aromas feature both red and dark fruit.  On the nose and the palate, you will likely taste red currant, black currant, spice,  and reminders of seared meat with an expected tannic astringency.  The tannins are fine but strong, with that slight bitterness on the finish that is so much loved in a wine to match with rich food.  With a full, smooth palate, seamlessly balanced, this one displays what a red wine with punch and purpose should offer.

Once again we have a powerful red Italian wine, but this one, unlike Aglianico del Vulture, has tannins that appear to come mainly from fruit tannins.  Watch this grape and its obvious possibilities develop as winemakers work with tactics from the New World for the modern palate.

Rating: 90

Emotional rating: With rich food, excellent!

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About “Gudarra” Aglianico del Vulture!

2 glasses of red wine & fireplaceGudarra, Bisceglia’s Aglianico del Vulture 2009, 14%.

Aged 12 months in French oak, this 100% Aglianico, whose name (Gudarra) means “to be enjoyed,” is a deep ruby and opaque at its core.  Tar, smoke, licorice, dark chocolate, earth, truffle, and a meaty note — all mingle with dark plum fruit, making it a full and rich wine.  The palate is smooth and all the flavors follow through to create an aftertaste that is long and perfectly balanced.  Acid and fine, but strong, tannins signal a long life and since the tannin has a slight bitter edge, it will enhance rich food and will itself be enriched.

For a perfect delight, drink it with Murray’s Irish Cheddar Cheese.  Steaks would rise to higher levels of pleasure, especially those with a good coating of succulent sauce ( but not too sweet).  Highly recommended for those who want a wine with power.  Available at wine.com price at time of writing $23.99 — a great buy, in my opinion.

Rating:  91

Emotional rating:  If you love big wines, 95!

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One Great Italian Wine: Aglianico!

harvest of blue grapeAglianico del Vulture

This is a wine that, when vinified at its best, can rival the top Sangiovese’s or Nebbiolo’s and stand proudly in the highest ranks of Italian reds.  Only 1,000 acres are planted — all at nearly 2,000 feet above sea level on the slopes of a volcano: Mt Vulture.  The elevation assures cooler nights in this warm southern region of Italy.  Often it is the last grape in Italy to be harvested and, if picked late with low yields, it can be very powerful and rich.  The use of new French oak is also a secret to its rising fame and beauty.  Powerful, fine-grained tannins mix with bursting, dark plum and chocolate aromas accompanied by lively acidity.  These characteristics are the features of these wines.

The grape is probably of Greek origin.  It is ancient, changing its name in the15th century from Ellenica to Aglianico (pronounced “ah-L’YEE’AH-nee-koh”).  

My most recent was the “Gudara” Aglianico del Vulture 2009.  Gustate il vino! Per la salute!

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This Red Wine Blend Is a “Fortune” Full of the Fruit You Seek!

Ruby Trust Fortune SeekerRuby Trust Fortune Seeker 2011 

Do you love a wine that has loads of fruit obviously evident on the nose and the palate?  Many people do.  Do you sometimes wonder if it has too much fruit?  Wines are being made with more fruit-forwardness than they used to be.  Fruit is important.  Remember the dictum, “No fruit, no future.”  I think no one wants a wine with no fruit flavors.  Here’s a simple wine experience to heighten your awareness, no matter what your level of wine knowledge.

Buy an inexpensive Australian Shiraz and compare it with Ruby Trust’s Fortune Seeker 2011.  Even though the Fortune Seeker (a red wine blend) is more fruit forward than some of Ruby Trust’s other wines, you should notice quite a difference between the two immediately.

Sometimes fruit can leave the impression that the wine is one dimensional.  By that I mean fruit is about all you can identify.  Maybe one flavor, like cherry or raspberry, is the wine’s dominant note.  Each mouthful is more cherry and the next more cherry and the wine keeps striking the same note.  It can become too much of a good thing.  Is this what you sense about the less expensive Shiraz?  If not, what?

Now, try the Fortune Seeker.  Notice a difference?  The fruit is abundantly there, but the presence of well-chosen oak adds many dimensions that leaves you wondering whether its layers of flavor are limited.  The flavors have blended into a mysterious whole and, although you can taste abundant fruit, there is the unmistakable presence of something that is harder to define: the marriage of fruit and oak.  Oak makes for more mystery in a wine and more complexity.  It creates a nondescript, interesting new set of flavors that keep you guessing and loving the mystery of it all.  Nothing is too much.  Vanilla (from French oak in this case), — oh, I love rising clouds of vanilla in a wine — but it is vanilla flavored with rich red and black fruit.  Maybe my pleasure comes from walking the vanilla fields in Tahiti and feeling the surge of emotion at its overpowering perfume.  And then as you keep tasting, you notice the fruit again and back to the chocolate and coffee (dark, of course) that comes from the oak treatment.  You can finish the rest of the taste experience for yourself.  You don’t need me.  See what you get.

Are both well made wines?  Yes.  But one is clearly a superior wine.  Depth, that’s it — the depth or richness from added and married flavors.  Oak and wine is a match made in heaven.

Ruby Trust’s Fortune Seeker 2011 is 68% Petit Verdot (which can impart quite a burst of fruit),  16% Syrah (more fruit), and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon (to add the power, structure, and the dark fruit flavors akin to blackcurrant and Montana huckleberries).  The fruits change with their continuing marination in French oak.  Lay this down and in 5 to 10 years, you will find a treasure trove of flavors yet undiscovered in this young beauty.

Rating — 90 plus

Emotional rating — Greater for the comparison, but either way highly stimulating to the endorphins.

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Cloudy Bay 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc can be pointed and sharp and that’s the element that most people love

Rarangi Beach, Marlborough, New Zealand

Rarangi Beach, Marlborough, New Zealand

about this wine.  It’s refreshing with acids that make you salivate like no other.  Flavor in white wines in particular is all about the acids and how they showcase the aromas.

Some Sauvignon Blanc’s can burst with aromas that tingle all the way up your nose.  Grapefruit and pineapple laced with lemon is what makes them so dashing and refreshing.  Lemon is the basic flavor that forms the foundation on which other exciting flavors are built.  Cloudy Bay’s 2013  Sauvignon Blanc builds its complex citrus and peach flavors on a smooth structure of fresh acids that leave behind on the palate a touch of creaminess.  This creamy citrus is a wonderful surprise when all you may be expecting is a razor sharp burst of grapefruit.  The next step that some desire is riper grapes that produce the much desired tropical flavors like guava and passion fruit.  But cream that stays to pleasantly coat the mouth and temper the acids is what this wine offers.  This is a softer Sauvignon Blanc with a pleasant 13.5% alcohol.

Cloudy Bay, located in Marlborough, New Zealand, has always had its own winemaking philosophy that differs from the other wineries that fill the Wairau Valley.  It has succeeded in marketing its wines and developing a strong following.  Image is part of its magic.

Enjoying Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blancs in Marlborough is a beautiful experience!  But New Zealand, beginning with Cloudy Bay, showed the world what Sauvignon Blanc could be.  New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blancs are now sought after all over the world, yet they remain priced very reasonably.  This one was introduced to my wife (a particular fan of Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs) and me by the Estate Director, Ian Morden, recently in Boulder, Colorado.  Wherever you drink it, you will enjoy it.

Taste this wine alongside of Brancott’s Sauvignon Blanc and talk about the differences and similarities you find.  Experience wine!

Rating: 89

Emotional rating on a picnic with cold cuts, cheese and fresh breads, 95.  This wine can enliven food!

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