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.

Try Describing Wine in Human Terms

Enzo Bianchi 2010

Enzo Bianchi 2010

Valentin Bianchi, Enzo Bianchi, 2010

When I say, “Try describing wine in human terms,” what I mean is, we humans have developed language to be able to communicate our thoughts.  We think and form our language in terms of  our world and ourselves.  If giving a human “personality” to wine will help us describe it better, why not?

For example:  When I taste wine, it is a personal adventure and a meeting I could describe like this: “The wine was shy, demure, trying not reveal its more subtle features.  It acted as though it was ashamed of what it had to offer.”  Or I might say, “The wine was gentle and reserved in how it revealed itself,”  or “This wine was extroverted, bold, unabashed.  It put itself out there for me to engage with it.”  Do you ever feel like expressing your experience with the wine in this way?

This personalizing of the wine helps me drill to the core of my emotional response a little more meaningfully.  Was its personality memorable and enchanting or a clash, rather brashly bold, that was off-putting?  It will show itself differently to different people because to human extroverts it may not be bold enough and to introverts it may awaken emotions and thoughts that plunge the introvert into a meditative frame of mind.  Talking about how the wine emotionally affected us is surely what wine is all about.

I am not trying to say I think the wine is a human or that I want to marry it (that could mean a new legal challenge).  No, it means I want to use the meaningful language of human encounters that humans understand and respond to so much better than definitive abstract language.  So here we go combining a descriptive approach with a personalizing of the wine.

By the way this is a great wine, not an ordinary experience.

Enzo Bianchi 2010, an Argentinian Cab from San Rafael, bottled by Valentin Bianchi.

Here is a wine with a bright personality.  It is not the price you would want to pay for an everyday wine, but it is a great wine for special occasions and for showing Cabernet Sauvignon’s personality at its best.

Deep and opaque, by its appearance signals me that it is a serious wine with a deep, dark, hidden side.  But as I sniff, a bright, lively, complex aroma emerges from the black cherries, blackberry, mulberry and undertones of blackcurrant.  Spice and pepper with a hint of cut hay makes the wine sparkle, while the stimulation of its still deep and rich feelings won’t go away.  Then I taste and my palate is treated to a repeat performance, but the acid refreshes my palate, emphasizing its youth and the luster of its appeal.

A velvet texture (largely due to its ultra fine tannins) so well absorbed from the new oak, results in a long emotional farewell.  You will marvel at this wine’s staying power (as I did) and its many expressions of the fruit and oak flavors.  It’s aromas and flavors don’t want to fade.

Now have the human terms helped our appreciation or have they hurt it?

You may want to keep a little of this wine and taste it side-by-side with the next wine we will examine — Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot — for an excellent comparison of the difference that a score of 88 and 94 means.

Rating: 94

Emotional rating:  Outstanding!  Let’s say it again, “Outstanding!”

Available:  See the website “Valentin Bianchi” for distributors in your area.  Its well worth the trouble of chasing it down.

From the Oldest Chenin Blanc Grapes in Washington’s Columbia Valley

L'Cole Chenin Blanc

L’Cole Chenin Blanc

L’Ecole Chenin Blanc

This wine comes from the oldest Chenin Blanc grapes in Washington’s Columbia Valley.  Light straw in color, it treats us to light honey notes, prominent pineapple, lemon, and floral reminders, finishing with a mouthful of fresh acid and fruit.  It’s a fruit-driven, luscious, generous wine.  Some minerality is observable, so it reminds us of its homeland.  It is much like a Vouvray with its fruity and floral aromas and producing more complexity than might be expected.  For $14, it is a real buy.  Note, it has plenty of acid.  Chenin Blanc’s high acid is a benefit in warm to hot climates and Columbia Valley can be very hot during the day, but the nights cool, slowing the loss of acids.  This makes a Washington Chenin Blanc an interesting example of an excellent New World Chenin.

Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley in France, is a perfect example that a great wine can and is made on the edge of climatic conditions.  The Loire Valley produces some great examples even though Chenin Blanc buds early and ripens late.  The struggle in this cooler climate seems to bring out the best in the grape, whereas in the Central Valley of California, it produces an ordinary wine at best.  Great struggle equals great wine possibilities.  Pay attention to climate when selecting a Chenin Blanc.  Ideal growing conditions can also produce great Chenin Blancs, but watch out for the evils of high yield and dropping acids if the region is too hot.

In most of the world, Chenin Blanc is pushed to give loads of fruit and is vinified to make some of the most ordinary wine.  It is often used as a blending agent to bolster up the acids when acids are too low, in the case of Chardonnay for example.  The characterless wine so often made from this grape is a bad rap on the reputation of a grape that is truly great when given the treatment it deserves.  This is a Chenin Blanc to savor.

Rating: 89

Emotional rating:  On a hot day, it will bring out those pleasurable emotions we all love to feel.

Available widely.

2012 – A Great Year for Wine in Colorado Too!

Creekside Cellars 2012 Cab Sauv

Creekside Cellars 2012 Cab Sauv

For most of the world, including Colorado, 2012 was a good year.  The fruit was full and rounded.  Cabernet Sauvignon ripened well in the Grand Valley and this wine will serve to demonstrate how, even when it is vinified at a less than knock-your-socks-off alcohol (13.9%), it holds its fullness and typical profile, displaying all the flavors and structure you expect in a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cab is not just a wine of power, as those familiar with New World Cabs are accustomed to.  Richness is not lost with finesse.

Cabernet can be a wine that on one end of the spectrum is distinctly herbaceous, lean, and supple, or a wine that is rich, fully showing its depth with dark flavors and reserved but polished refinement.  And then it can be big, powerful, a fruit packed bomb ready to fill your mouth with ripe denseness.  In all of its presentations it does not lose its character unless it is badly vinified.

This wine from Creekside Cellars follows the second description of finesse: rich and full, yet reserved and polished.  Dark cherry greets you on the nose dressed in oak flavors of clove, cedar, leather, and the whole cigar box scenario.  A little toast and allspice polish off its well integrated flavors.

All are held together by firm tannins and it keeps its pleasant balance from the start to its long, rich finish.  An excellent example of the noble grape and a wine not to miss.  At the wineries restaurant, it pairs very well with the beef sandwich.

In bottle now, it awaits its release and will be something to tempt you strongly.  I have no problem in recommending this wine to wine lovers and those who favor a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon of subtle elegance and yet enough power to satisfy the potency lovers.  The PH is 3.49 and the TA is 7.3 grams per liter, which bodes well for a wine with a fresh backbone but, as you will find, also has a perfect balance while its viscosity and saturated flavors coat the mouth.

Rating 91+

Emotional rating:  Deeply satisfying without being over the top.  For me, a solid 95 points of pleasure.

Available from the winery, Creekside Cellars, Colorado.

Tamarack Cellars Has a “Harmonious” 2012 Cab Sauv

Tamarack Cellars 2012 Cab Sauf

Tamarack Cellars 2012 Cab Sauf

Tamarack Cellars Cab Sauv 2012

This wine exhibits, as do many varietal expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon, the harmony of flavors that this grape can achieve in the finished wine and in blending it with many other grapes.  Tamarack Cellars has chosen a traditional blend of grapes (86% is Cab Sauv, 8% is Cabernet Franc, and 6% is Merlot).  Bordeaux has it right when it blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and other grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, the addition of Syrah was a blend that was first used in the early days of Bordeaux.

Cabernet has backbone and muscle but lacks gentleness until age has mellowed its punch.  There is a richness in the mid palate of Merlot that seems to make Cab rounder and smoother, and it does the job in this Tamarack blend.  There is also a similarity with Cabernet Franc that can, in leaner years, add to Cab’s herbaceousness, but when harvested fully ripe, can blend and enrich Cabernet’s offering of blackcurrant as it seems to do in this example.

The winemakers have gone to great measures to preserve the individuality of each vineyard and variety to blend without first muddying the pool.  The result is a harmonious blend of flavors and texture that is to be celebrated in this wine.

The wine needs more age to show at its best.  Somewhat closed, a bit of breathing can help.  On the nose is the richness of vanilla, a hint of smoke at first, and fruit flavors that have married into a harmonious and glorious whole.  It is very complex and appealingly smooth, with fine but strong tannins that should marry more as it ages.  There is a little minerality and the acid is in beautiful balance to the point of it not being noticeable except for its mouth watering effect.  To me, this is acid balance in perfection.

Because of its harmony, this is a wine that does not stand up tall and say, “This is who I am,” but rather delivers a dose of complex pleasure and velvety softness that creeps up on you and creates emotions that are all to do with its soothing melody and its contrasting rich, complex power.

Rating:  91

Emotional rating:  Loads of soft-hued dark fruit and oak lusciousness.  The same emotions as when you fall into a feather pillow, but one well stuffed and firm as well as soft.

Available: from the winery.  Also try and/or wine