Tag Archives: red wine

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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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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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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Harvest Fest at Colorado’s Holy Cross Abbey Winery

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey sits on the property of the Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon

Blessing of the Harvest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Harvest Fest

Blessing of the Harvest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Harvest Fest

City, Colorado.  A history of winemaking by the Abbey has now turned into a modern winery (owned by Larry Oddo) that honors the traditions of the past.  Each Harvest Fest is blessed by a Father of the Roman Catholic Church and this year’s event set a record at approximately 4000 in attendance for the two-day event.

This was a great opportunity to experience the way Colorado celebrates the vine.  A surprise (and “truly Colorado”) was the churning of home made ice cream, powered by a donkey on a “treadmill.”

 

This donkey is making real homemade ice cream!

This donkey is making real homemade ice cream!

The winery’s  new winemaker, Jeff Stultz, produced 2011 Revelation that won “Best New World Generic Proprietary Red Wine” in March of 2014 at the Jerry Mead International competition.

I tasted a vertical of their Cabernet Sauvignons and could clearly see the skill and experience of the winemaking.  Here are the notes from the evaluations of the current reds created by their current winemaker, Jeff Stultz.

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2012  A strong blackcurrant aroma, with light herbal edges and underlined with blackberry, greets you boldly.  The herbaceousness for which Cabernet is known is controlled.  While still juicy and fresh, the wine’s attack is very much like a young Bordeaux.  Its medium weight on the palate is supported by a strong structure.  The wine should develop more complexity as it ages, although it would dress a grilled steak very well as it is.  This is a wine to lay down for 2-3 years with a longevity of 10 or more, depending on how it develops.  It should reward wonderfully.  Allow it to breathe in the glass for an hour to smooth its power a little.  The wine is a quality wine with a food friendly medium finish.

A small portion of the 2014  record crowd at the Harvest Festival at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

A small portion of the 2014 record crowd at the Harvest Festival at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

Syrah, 2012:  Bluish red in color (sporting its youth), this Syrah is abundant with raspberry and pepper notes on the nose that lead to even more spice on the palate.  Notice that the fruit does not display its full power on the nose but increases through the palate to the finish like a grand crescendo.  The acids are racy and razor edged and the bite remains to the end for a real cleansing effect.

Cabernet Franc, 2012:  Beautifully graduated from the core to the rim with a youthful red color.  Dark fruits flood the aroma and a brightness gives indication of a lively wine.  A sleek balanced palate, medium in weight, is a platform for the brightness and blackness of the blackcurrant and raspberry fruit.  This is another excellent wine and it finishes with a balance of acid, fruit and tannin that leave you feeling like “more.”  Also, it displays a medium length on the finish with acid that refreshes but does not bite.  This is a very good Colorado expression of the grape.  Colorado is defining its expression of Cabernet Franc as having more of the richness of the new world, but still with hints of the stoniness of the soils in which it is grown.  Science can make no connection between soil and the flavors of the grape, but tasters can tell.  See if you can get hints of stone and dry rock.

Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012:  Deep ruby, the nose displays more of the fruit than the reserve wine and less of the herbs.  In fact, they are almost hidden.  No indication of VA tingles in your nose and you are quickly introduced to a rich mouthful of fruit.  The tannins are a little more pronounced than the reserve wine, but fine and mainly oak derived.  This is a good buy.  There is plenty of acid to make it a food-friendly wine and to suggest, like the reserve, that it can do with a year or more maturing in the bottle for even more rewarding flavors.

Merlot Reserve, 2012:   This is a Merlot worthy of a close examination.  Deep ruby and with acids that expand in the mouth, its strong tannins for a Merlot will please the Cab drinkers and its black fruit, led by blackberry, blackcurrant, and plum notes, create an aroma and palate that is plush.  The plum enriches the sensual delight that Merlot is expected to provide.  Silky sensations smooth out a strong structure.  This is another wine that can do with a little time and would love some food.  It is powerful for a Merlot and should enhance a steak meal and entertain the big and bold wine drinker.

Ratings:  All wines would rate in the 86-90 range.

Emotional rating:  Very good — will improve with age as the tertiary flavors develop.

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What Did You Taste – Jules Taylor 2012 Pinot Noir, Marlborough

Did you smell strawberry or raspberry?  Someone says strawberry and someone else says raspberry.  Whose right?  Probably both.  That’s not because a Pinot Noir can offer both IMG_1125flavors.  Its because our detection of aromas, although very capable, may recall strawberry to one person and raspberry to another.  Both aromas are berry smells.  But the wine is not pure berry, one or the other.

I detect other aromas in the wine.  Try it.  What do you get?  To me this Pinot is more raspberry in its fruity notes.  But I can also detect vanilla and that is changing the raspberry note and deepening it.

Humans don’t taste the whole spectrum of flavors.  We are all less able to detect one and more able to detect another.  One person could be more accurate in detecting berry flavors, for example.  What we had to eat or drink last might be still affecting our detection devices because we are already leaning toward those flavors and our memory has not “put them away.”  We also can detect aromas or flavors (I’m using the words synonymously here) at different intensities.  What if an element of the raspberry aroma is not recorded at equal intensity by another person?  That could account for their insistence that it is strawberry.

So, please don’t get into a fight about aromas.  The pleasure should be in what you smell, not in accuracy.  Now if we want to be more accurate, then we must train our noses.  Le Nez du Vin is a set of vials containing aromas that are detected in wine.  One can sharpen his ability to detect the aromas by using the vials daily.  Our olfactory neurons are renewed every 30 days or so.  Therefore, we can train our delicate detection devices.

Back to the wine, which I recommend as a great example of a Pinot Noir from Marlborough and that is richer, darker and comes from heavier soils than, say, the Oyster Bay Pinot Noir.  Try the two Pinot Noirs together (They won’t break the bank!) and see what I mean.  We will return to discuss the differences in these two Pinot Noirs in the next blog.

Jules Taylor 2012 Pinot Noir is 13.5%ABV.

Rating 90

Emotional rating, if you like the darker style of Pinot Noir, could be around a 95.

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