Sun 22 Nov 2009
No need to make a big deal about the Melini Chianti Borghi d’Elsa 2008, Toscana. It’s a quaffable little trattoria wine, bright, fresh and fruity and decently spicy with galloping acidity to jazz up the red and black cherry and plum flavors. The finish is packed with briers and brambles, leaving an impression of rusticity that doesn’t edge over to the roughneck. Made in stainless steel, the wine is a classic Chianti blend of sangiovese (85%), canaiolo nero (10%), malvasia (3%) and trebbiano (2%). Wines like this have an agreeable slot in the repertoire; slug it down with grilled cheese sandwiches and pizzas. Good+. About $8.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
Let the Falset 2005, from Spain’s Montsant region, breathe for an hour before drinking to let some rollicking funkiness blow off, unless you’re into rain-drenched mushrooms and well-nurtured mulch, which when you think about it, sound pretty evocative. After that opening up, you’ll find a wine whose individuality gives $11 wines a good name. Made in stainless steel from 50 percent grenache and 30 percent carignan — both grape varieties from 100-year-old vineyards — and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, Falset ’08 offers distinctly ripe and spicy black and red currant, blueberry and blackberry scents and flavors that grow more macerated and roasted in the glass. This is a wine that doesn’t hesitate to tip-toe onto the exotic side, as the spicy element expands and brings with it hints of potpourri, violets and lavender, a bit of fruitcake, a backwash of granite-like minerality. Very good, and a Bargain at about $11, which is what I paid for it.
Ole Imports, Manhasset, New York.
Montsant — “holy mountain” — became an official designated wine region in 2001. It surrounds, on three sides, the better-known Priorat region, southwest of Barcelona. The landscape is hilly and rugged, the climate generally Mediterranean.
Badia a Coltibuono, the thousand-year-old producer of Chianti Classico and other wines in Tuscany, offers an easy-drinking yet nicely complicated red wine in its Cancelli Rosso 2008, Toscana, a blend of 70 percent sangiovese and 30 percent syrah made all in stainless steel (and with a spiffy new label). The color is a compelling deep purple with a tint of magenta at the rim; the bouquet combines red and black cherries and plums with smoke, black pekoe tea, cloves and dried orange rind. Flavors of red and black currants are highlighted by strains of dried meadow flowers, wild berries and moderately dusty tannins. It’s the sort of wine you could drink all night, as long as the pizza and pasta keep coming to the table. The alcohol level is a modest 12.5 percent. Drink through the end of 2010. Very Good. About $11, a Great Value.
Imported by Dalla Terra, Napa, Cal.
For the day after Thanksgiving, with those turkey samosas and turkey burritos, open the Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2008, an emblematic Beaujolais-Villages — 100 percent gamay grapes — for its brightness and appealing nature. The lovely bouquet is a wreathing of black currants and black raspberries woven with lavender and violets and intriguing notes of slightly tarry earthiness. That hint of gravity, a pulling of the wine toward dark depths, lends some character, a combination of firmness and winsomeness, to the delicious attraction of spicy black currant and mulberry flavors. The wine is quite dry, lively with acidity — that’s part of its “brightness” — and even a bit foresty and brambly on the finish. Charming and versatile and far better than the Beaujolais Nouveau that’s stacked in all the retail stores now. Very Good+ and Great Value at about $12.
Imported by Kobrand Corp., Purchase, N.Y.
Here’s a primitivo for those weary of having their tongues tromped on by farmers’ brogans. In other words, Castello Monaci Pilùna Primitivo 2007, Salento, from Italy’s Boot-heel, is robust without being rustic and a little rowdy without being roughshod. Ripe black currant, blueberry and plum scents and flavors are packed with dried flowers, baking spices and smoke; the chewy texture is composed of dense, briery tannins and dusty, granite-like minerals framed by exuberant acidity. After a few minutes in the glass, notes of black pepper and oolong tea sneak in. Aged in a combination of French barriques and stainless steel tanks, the Pilùna Primitivo 2007 is solid, well-made, tasty stuff, well-suited to the lamb shank pizza with which we drank it on a recent Pizza-and-Movie Night. Very Good+. About $13, Good Value.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
Like a good-natured puppy looking for companionship and affection, the Wagtail Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Coonawarra, South Australia, just can’t help being upfront about its virtues. Yep, if this wine could lick your face with its big, rich, jammy black currant, cherry and raspberry scents and flavors, it damned well would. The texture is dense and chewy, almost port-like, and the intense and concentrated fruit is permeated with smoke, potpourri, new leather and an iodine-like minerality. Then, as many canines do, it turns all canny and ambiguous, finishing with a dry bite of austerity fueled by briery-brambly tannins. Quite a package. Very Good. About $13, Good Value. O.K., O.K., the wagtail is a bird, not a dog, I know that.
Imported by The Country Vintner, Ashland, Va.
Whoa, the Kamiak Rock Lake Red 2007, Columbia Valley, Washington, delivers one of the most audaciously fragrant bouquets ever to have crossed the portals of my nostrils. (Actually, nostrils are portals, n’est-ce pas?) An exhilarating zephyr of clove, cinnamon and licorice Necco Wafers, lavender, dust, cedar and juniper, black currants and plums wafts from the glass. After this heady panoply, the wine settles down to a proper (and not very exciting) sort of display of spicy oak — 16 months French and American oak barrels –equally spicy black fruit flavors; dusty, chewy tannins; and a fairly austere finish. The combination of grapes here is cabernet sauvignon (44%), merlot (26%), syrah (25%) and malbec (5%), a kind of but not exactly Bordeaux blend, because of the syrah. Attractive and drinkable, this is not quite the bargain, at its price, as its sister wine, the Kamiak Windust White 2008 is at $10. Very Good. About $15.
It’s interesting and puzzling that the Three Loose Screws division of Don Sebastiani & Sons would offer pinot noir wines from two of its labels at the same price, $15. Isn’t that working against each other? Or is there some marketing kink here that I’m not comprehending? The wines are Flock by Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2008, Monterey County, and Aquinas Pinot Noir 2007, Napa Valley. The alcohol level of each wine is 13.5 percent. Production of the Flock Pinot Noir ’08 is 5,400 cases; for the Aquinas Pinot Noir ’07 it’s 27,000 cases.
Flock by Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2008, Monterey, offers beguiling aromas of black cherry, cranberry and rhubarb highlighted by lilac and rose petal, a mossy/leather element and a touch of sweet earthiness. The wine is quite dry, a little brambly and briery, yet the texture is sleekly satiny, and the black and red fruit flavors carry through to the spicy, woody finish. Very Good. About $15.
Do look for the Flock Old Vine Zinfandel 2007, Dry Creek Valley, which I made a Wine of the Week three months ago.
On the other hand, the Aquinas Pinot Noir 2007, Napa Valley, is a darker, spicier pinot, less floral, more dense and chewy; hints of new leather and underbrush underlie black currant and plum flavors that feel macerated and roasted. This pinot delivers more dimension and persistence than its stablemate, but it, too, earns a Very Good rating from me. I enjoyed several aspects of each of these pinot noirs, but altogether, they lack the few degrees of personality that would make them more compelling. About $15. This is the new, more dignified label for the Aquinas line.
Three Loose Screws also produces these labels: Pepperwood Grove, The Crusher, Mia’s Playground, Screw Kappa Nappa, B Side and Used Automobile Parts.
You don’t expect the elegance and balance from a cabernet that’s the price of the Josh Amber Knolls Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Red Hills, Lake County. (“Amber Knolls”? Isn’t that the name of the girl you met that night at the Donkey Island Club?) Anyway, this cab, made by Joseph Carr, offers ripe and smoky black currant and black cherry flavors that are dense with spice and minerals and enlivened with acidity that practically glitters. A firm foundation of polished oak and grainy tannins ensures a solid yet supple structure. Sounds just all right, so far, perhaps, like a hundred other inexpensive cabernets, but what is almost unaccountable is this cabernet’s sense of purpose and confidence, an expression of liveliness and engagement that is rare at the price. It made me happy to drink it. Very Good+. About $15, a Great Bargain.
Rancho Zabaco is one of Gallo’s great success stories, though I am not as fond of the winery’s second and less expensive label, Dancing Bull; “less expensive” is a relative term, since the Rancho Zabaco wines usually represent good value. The Rancho Zabaco Sonoma Heritage Vines Zinfandel 2007, Sonoma County, teems with spicy, floral-inflected black currant and blueberry scents that carry threads of boysenberry and black cherry. That black fruit and its inherent spiciness sustain themselves in flavor too, nestled in a dense and chewy texture shot through with lively acidity. Notes of coffee and bitter chocolate, brambles and shale-like minerals round out the long, plump finish. A delicious, classically-proportioned zinfandel that would be terrific with Thanksgiving dinner. Very Good+. About $18, but found on the Internet as low as $14.
Masi created the Campofiorin brand in 1964, capitalizing on the ripasso method of fermenting grapes on the skins or pomace of previously fermented wine, giving the resulting product a deep jolt of juiciness and luscious fruit. So, the Masi Campofiorin 2006, Rosso del Veronese, a blend of corvino (70%), rondinella (25%) and molinara (5%), is indeed deep and dark and flavorful, while being, also, notably clean and fresh. Spiced and macerated black and red cherries dominate the nose, adding touches of orange rind and smoky oolong tea as the moments pass. A dusty mineral-like character permeates flavors of black cherries, currants and plums that become spicier and more exotic, as moderate tannins shaded with mossy, foresty elements dominate the finish. Drink with roasts, game and hearty pasta dishes. Very Good+. About $18, but seen on the Internet as low as $15.
Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa, Cal.