Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Picks: Vintages Release -- December 11 2010

It's the last release before the holidays and the festive theme of the last 2 releases continues here with lots of sparkling wines and icewine. I’ve recommended one sparkling for your celebrations.

But don’t overlook some great choices that might otherwise slip by in all the holiday hubbub. There are a couple of interesting Syrah or syrah-blends available; there were almost 3, but my prospective 3rd choice had 15.5% alcohol, which is crazy high even for Oz. Really, just get yourself some Port.

Also, look out for 3 super choices from Rioja.


BADIA A COLTIBUONO 2007, DOCG Chianti Classico (Tuscany); #295964; Price: $21.95; 12.8% ABV
A blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. Handpicked. Fermented using indigenous yeasts. Maceration on the skins for 3 weeks. Aged 12 months in French and Austrian oak. Badia a Coltibuono means “Abbey of the Good Harvest". Indeed it is. Certified organic since 2003 by Instituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale. Why organic?  Listen to the winemaker:  “In the past decades the use of pesticides, chemical treatments, weed-killers and the like has led to practices which deplete the soil without re-generating it, that homogenize tastes and that pose a significant threat to our health and well-being. Since we have embraced organic methods of agriculture, we are enjoying the pleasures of cultivating the life force of this place, and experience is showing that our products, our Chianti Classico wines and our extra virgin olive oils, are gaining an ever stronger identity.”

Off the Beaten Track 


A couple of sunny California girls, a Riesling from OZ, and a classic from Chablis...

KENDALL-JACKSON VINTNER'S RESERVE SUMMATION 2009, California; #210195; Price: $19.95; 13.5% ABV
Playtime for the winemaker. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (33%), Viognier (27%), Chardonnay (15%), Semillon (9%), Roussanne (6%), Pinot Blanc (6%), Riesling (2%), and Muscat Canelli (2%). From 5 different growing areas. Worth a try just to see what comes out.

MCMANIS FAMILY VINEYARDS VIOGNIER 2009, California; #658112; Price: $19.95; 13.5% ABV
There’s some very fine Viognier coming out of California and if you haven’t tried some, you’re missing something good. Cold fermented in stainless steel. No oak.

WOLF BLASS GOLD LABEL RIESLING 2008, Adelaide (Australia); #606269; Price: $19.95; 13.0% ABV
I got the wine for your Christmas turkey right here. Harvested at night, when it’s cool. Fermented in stainless steel. Haven’t tried a good dry Riesling from down under? Don’t wait any longer!

JEAN-MARC BROCARD MONTMAINS 2008, AC Chablis 1er Cru (Burgundy); #983882; Price: $33.95; 13.0% ABV
Oh, Chablis, you heartbreaker! When you’re good, you’re very good: citrus and apricot, flinty minerality, great acidity…the perfect match to raw oysters. But you can be mediocre and you don’t travel very well. But even though you don’t always treat me right, I still come back for more. Fermented in stainless steel, followed by Malolactic fermentation. Jean-Marc’s son wants to convert to Biodynamic farming…must make for interesting discussions in the cellar.


Let's start with something from the wonderful 2007 vintage in Niagara:

CREEKSIDE ESTATE LAURA RED 2007, VQA Niagara Peninsula; #117960; Price: $19.95; 12.7% ABV
A “Bordeaux blend” of Cabernet Sauvignon (39.5%), Merlot (39%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Malbec (6%) and Petit Verdot (0.5%). Fermented on the skins in stainless steel. Aged separately in predominantly French oak barrels (56% new) for an average of 22 months, then blended. Bordeaux blend, Bordeaux weight too.

Que syrah, syrah...

TRINITY HILL SYRAH 2008, Hawkes Bay (New Zealand); #194274; Price: $20.95; 12.5% ABV
A blend of Syrah (96%) and Viognier (4%). Syrah from New Zealand? Now, that’s different! And it’s from Gimblett Gravels, considered by some to be the best growing area in New Zealand. The winemaker extended maceration for 2 weeks following fermentation to soften the tannins. Aged separately for 10 months in both French and American oak and stainless steel tanks, then blended.

HECHT & BANNIER MINERVOIS 2007, AC Minervois (Languedoc); #17764; Price: $18.95; 14.5% ABV
Just last month, we had the St Chinian from Hecht & Bannier. Now here's the Minervois. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, with “few drops” of Carignan and Mourvèdre. Aged 30% in stainless steel, 20% in one- and two-year old 600-litre barrels (known in Languedoc as “demi-muids”), and 50% in new, one-year-old and two-year-old barrels (both 225 litres and 400 litres). Yes, more 2007 Languedoc…buy it!

Here are 3 wines from Rioja, each representative of the most common aging categories, from longest to shortest:  Gran Reserva, Reserva, and Crianza.

BARON DE LEY GRAN RESERVA 2001, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #642496; Price: $29.95; 13.0% ABV
A blend of Tempranillo (90%) and “others” (they allow Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano). They sort and de-stem the grapes in the field. Fermented in stainless steel with extended maceration for another 10 days. Aged 24 months, half in French oak, half in American oak, then aged in bottle for 5 years (yup, 5 years) before release. Drink now, wait 10 years, your choice. Ah, that’s how to make a great wine!

BODEGAS FRANCO ESPANOLAS RIOJA BORDÓN RESERVA 2004, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #194753; Price: $18.95; 13.6% ABV
A blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, and Mazuelo. Fermented on the skins for 9 days and maceration continued for 5 more days. Aged in American oak -- my preference with Tempranillo – with various degrees of barrel toasts for 24 months, followed by bottle aging for 24 months.

SOLAR DE LÍBANO CRIANZA 2006, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #190579; Price: $14.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Tempranillo (97%) with Graciano and Garnacha (3%). Aged in French and American oak for 18 months, then 3 more months in 20,500-litre casks made of French oak (that’s big!), then 6 months in bottle before release. The maxim of the winemaker, Bodegas Castillo de Sajazarra, is "less technology, more tradition". Exactly.

And here's the Sparkling...yes it's from Ontario!

13TH STREET PREMIER CUVÉE BRUT SPARKLING WINE, VQA Niagara Peninsula; #142679; Price: $29.95; 12.5% ABV
Although we ring in the New Year at our house with Champagne, there are many other opportunities during the holidays to treat you and yours to some sparkling, especially one from another cool climate: Niagara! Here’s my choice. A blend of Pinot Noir (2/3) and Chardonnay (1/3), 13th Street makes it in the traditional way, as they do in Champagne.

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