November 2012

Jumilla is a wine region in southeastern Spain in the province of Murcia, its arid hills providing a transition between the coast and the vast plateau of Castilla-La Mancha that occupies the country’s center. With its vineyards situated at heights between 2,000 and 3,500 feet elevation, Bodegas Carchelo produces some of Jumilla’s finest wines, of which the “C” 2010, a blend of 40 percent monastrell (the French mourvèdre), 40 percent syrah and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, is a terrific example, being both rustic and stylish; the package is pretty stylish, too. That combination indicates a modern vision for the wine, since it’s a melange of grapes, not necessarily in the same proportion, that could be found in the South of France, in parts of Italy, in California or Washington, in Argentina or Australia. “C” receives less oak than Carchelo’s other wines, resting only two or three months in French barrels. The color is deep dark ruby-purple; aromas of ripe, smoky and spicy black currents, blackberries and blueberries are seductively woven with graphite, lavender and violets, cloves and sandalwood and just an edge of black olive and bell pepper. The wine is robust to the point of being broad-shouldered and burly; lip-smacking acidity and dusty tannins support and temper a black and blue fruit basket of sweet ripeness. The finish is long, mineral-lashed and slightly astringent. This could wait a year or two, unless you’re drinking it with a medium rare rib-eye steak or leg of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary, hot and crusty from the grill. 14 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $16, an Incredible Bargain, and discounted around the country as low as $14.

Imported by Classical Wines of Spain, Seattle. A sample from a local wholesale house.

Except for Santa Lucia Highlands, which I’m still working on as some separate posts since I published this post on October 12. Represented today though are Russian River Valley, Monterey, Cienega Valley, Carneros, Sonoma Coast and Edna Valley, as well as one example with a general California designation; all are from 2010 or 2009. I don’t burden the “Weekend Wine Sips” (formerly the “Friday Wine Sips”) with technical detail, narrative sweep, personnel histories or geographical and geological grandeur; these are brief notes, often transcribed directly from the pages of my notebooks, designed to give you a quick glimpse into the essence of the wine. These were samples for review.

Pietra Santa Pinot Noir 2009, Cienega Valley, San Benito. 14.3% alc. Medium ruby, slightly brickish color; ripe and spicy black and red cherries, cola and cloves and sassafras; a little fleshy, with hints of dried fruit and spices, earthy, loamy, satiny; you feel the sticks and briers in the slightly austere underbrushy finish, which falls a bit short. Drink up. Very Good+. About $18.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, California. 13.5% alc. Medium ruby color; a pretty pinot noir, bright and spicy red with blue fruit scents and flavors, a pleasing smooth texture and plenty of smooth-grained tannins for structure. Through 2013. Very Good. About $19.
La Crema Pinot Noir 2010, Monterey. 13.5% alc. (Jackson Family Wines) A real mouthful of pinot noir, rich and very berryish, dark, spicy; cranberry-magenta color; cherries galore, very clean, pure and intense, lipsmacking acidity, quite dry; the oak comes up a bit in the finish, but a well-made and appealing wine. Through 2013. Very Good+. About $20, representing Good Value.
Toad Hollow Goldie’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Russian River Valley. 14.9% alc. Medium ruby-magenta color; black cherries, red currants and plums, nicely balanced between richness and spareness, touches of rhubarb and cloves; undertone of brown sugar or something slightly caramelized; smoke and satin, sweetly succulent yet dry, a little sanded and burnished in effect; an edge of foresty austerity through the finish. Through 2014. Very Good+. About $20, Excellent Value.
Rodney Strong Pinot Noir 2010, Russian River Valley. 14.5% alc. Dark ruby-mulberry color; beetroot, cloves, sassafras and coloa under black cherries and plums; satiny, slick and sleek; oak influence subdued to balance and integration; sapid, supple, savory; dense and almost viscous but cut by bright acidity and smooth-bore tannins; finish permeated by briers and brambles. Through 2014. Excellent. About $25.
La Crema Pinot Noir 2010, Sonoma Coast. 13.9% alc. Medium ruby color; earthy, briery style, moss, mushroom, leather and the clove-cola-sassafras syndrome with black and red cherries and a hint of rhubarb; large-framed, dense, lithe, lively, pronounced tannins though polished and well-knit; succulent without being opulent; long fruit-and-spice packed finish with a final edge of graphite. Through 2015.
Excellent. About $25.
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast. 13.5% alc. Medium ruby-mulberry color; entrancing bouquet of currants and plums, smoky and softly ripe, a little fleshy, touches of fruitcake, rhubarb and lilac; slightly roughened tannins boost the texture; very dry though tasty; leather and loam in the finish where the wood comes up. Through 2013. Very Good+. About $27
Frank Family Pinot Noir 2009, Carneros-Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. Medium ruby with a slightly lighter ruby rim; rich, warm and spicy, more syrah-like in heft and flavor than is good for its supposition as pinot noir; a muscular manner that blunts nuance. Very Good. About $35.

(Eight others follow)

… or something like that. The Trim Edge and Fuse project represents a sideline for Napa Valley’s Signorello Estate winery, whose Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 I reviewed last week. Trim, Edge and Fuse, predominantly cabernet sauvignon, represent interesting variations on the theme of the grape treated for prices raging from cheap ($12) to moderate ($20) to moderately expensive ($28) while retaining an identifiable linking character, which is to say, polished and voluminously fruity yet intelligently structured. Interestingly, each wine contains some syrah. Grapes are sourced — that is, purchased — from the North Coast counties and, for Fuse, from Napa Valley. Alcohol levels are kept at a tolerable 13.8 percent. As you can see from the striking labels, these are stylish packages and stylish wines, but they don’t feel fraught or mannered.

These wines were samples for review.
Trim Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, California, is a blend of 83 percent cabernet, 9 percent merlot and 8 percent syrah. The color is dark ruby-purple with a magenta-violet rim. The exotic bouquet teems with notes of smoke and lavender, cloves and sandalwood, cedar and dried thyme, blackberries and black currants and a hint of black olive. Flavors are pure black currants and black raspberries circumscribed by a distinct contour of spice, smoke, dried flowers and graphite and are supported by velvety (but not opulent) tannins and a backbone of bright acidity. A real crowd-pleaser. Very Good+. About $12, a Great Value. In fact, I would say that Trim ’10 is one of the best cabernet sauvignon wines priced under $15 made in California.
The black-clad Edge Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, North Coast, like the hipster of this trio, is all smoke and charcoal and cool graphite, while sporting an opaque ruby-purple haircut, I mean color, and intense and concentrated scents and flavors of deeply spiced and macerated black currants, cherries and raspberries. To 86 percent cabernet sauvignon is blended 9 percent syrah and 5 percent merlot. Though it’s more velvet glove than iron fist, the wine offers enough tannic, acid and oak foundation and framing to keep it on the straight and narrow path. It’s a real mouthful of dark savory supple cabernet that would be terrific with braised short ribs or lamb shanks. Very Good+. About $20.
We would hope, if not expect, that the most expensive of these three wines and the one that derives from the most specific appellation — though amorphous enough — would display the most intensity and concentration and the most character. Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley, does not disappoint in those aspects. Here, we get substantially more syrah — 15 percent — blended with 82 percent cabernet and only 3 percent merlot. This is indeed the biggest of these cousins, the sturdiest, the most dense and chewy, the earthiest, the most rigorous in its licorice and bittersweet chocolate-licked blaze of black and blue fruit scents and flavors. Drink now with a steak or give it a year. Excellent. About $28.

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