Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer of Swirling: V.I.P. Table Favorites

Article & Reviews by: Eric Guido

An amazing tasting at one of my favorite restaurants
of the summer: Danny Brown
It has been a summer full of fine foods, good friends and some absolutely beautiful bottles of wine. It has also been one of my busiest summers to date. My workload has been tremendous, hence the lack of updates here on the blog, but that doesn’t mean my focus and dedication have waivered. I feel it’s time to do a little summer recap and introduce my readers to some of the great bottles I’ve enjoyed—before they are all gone.  What’s more, autumn is right around the corner, and there are some red wines here that simply need to be retasted for optimal enjoyment as the weather cools.

Best Values

Let’s jump right into it with some of the best values I’ve found and work our way up to the vintage wines and highest scorers. Spain, Italy and Germany were on full display in my house this summer and for very good reason. These regions represent some of the best values in the wine world.

The Castillo de Monseran Carinena was new to me and a big surprise. The grape is Grenache, but not what you’d usually expect. If you’ve ever wondered what a Southern Rhone Grenache would taste like with more finesse and minerality, look no further.

2009 Castillo de Monseran Cariñena 50 Year Old Vines - The nose was ripe, yet characterful, showing dark fruit, ripe strawberry, mint, and a hint of oak. On the palate, it was rich and deeply rooted in brambly, earthy fruit with blackberry, currant, hints of stem and minerals. The texture was full yet grainy with tannin that tugged at your already black-fruit saturated palate. A solid vein of acidity kept it fresh enough for the dinner table, yet fun enough for the back porch. The finish was tart, with a slightly syrupy, lip-smacking quality--yet fresh. An excellent bottle of wine and a great value. (91 points) Monseran Website!

If there was a repeating theme this summer, it was my desire to drink more Riesling. Each time I opened the cellar door, I would start to think about these refreshing, acid-driven, mineral-laced and fruity wines. The Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Kabinett was without a doubt the best Quality-Price-Ratio Riesling of the bunch.

2012 Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett - The nose showed a light spritz of lemon and lime with moist minerals and hints of fresh cut grass. On the palate, there was a striking cut of acidity, lending tremendous freshness and a mouthwatering quality which nearly masked its ripe fruit; yet the fruit was still there and quite enjoyable. Peach, cherry and citrus notes lingered on the palate with stony minerals as the mouth continued to water. It was fresh and fruity with great minerality, a great QPR--what more could I ask for? (90 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

And then there’s Sardinia, an island off of the Italian mainland which too few of us wine lovers are exploring. Some of the most interesting Italian wines I’ve enjoyed over the years have come from this dramatically different region of Italy. In fact, two wines from Sardinia made today’s list of summer favorites. Here, it’s a little known grape named Carignano which is showcased in this racy and exotic value wine.

2010 Agricola Punica Montessu Isola dei Nuraghi IGT - The nose was exotic, showing dark red berry, currant, Indian spice and chalky minerals. On the palate, it was ripe yet racy and balanced with dark savory fruit tones and a rich chewy mouth feel. Tart red berry and hints of spice lingered long, turning darker and firmer with time. A very enjoyable bottle of wine! (90 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

Going back to Riesling for a moment, and a great wine for those of you who prefer the drier and more rock and mineral style, there’s the Stein St. Aldeguner Palmberg. This wine takes some time in the glass to come to life, but once it does—hold on to your chair. It’s rich yet racy and tense with gobs of mouthwatering intensity. A great relative value, as it’s not necessarily cheap, but worth every penny.

2011 Stein St. Aldegunder Palmberg-Terrassen Riesling Spätlese feinherb - Aromas jumped from the glass of this young Riesling, showing ripe pear, peach skins, wet mineral laden stone and hints of lemon. On the palate, there was a yin yang of fruit, acidity and minerality. Grapefruit was foremost with equal doses of acidity, as expected from a bite, and the sprinkle of sugar on top. Ripe peach flavor and weight added balance, along with gorgeous saline minerals, which poured out as the mouth began to water. The finish made the cheeks pucker with slight lemon pith, hints of fresh honeycomb and inner floral notes. To say I enjoyed this wine would be an understatement. (92 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

Could a summer favorites list exist without a bottle of Ridge? In my book, if there’s one red wine that must be stocked up for every summer and fall—it’s Ridge Zinfandel. These wines are just perfect for anything you can throw at them. Hot weather, sitting by the grill, barbecue, pool side, big steaks, spicy Mexican… the list can go on and on.

2011 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch - The nose was ripe and slightly rustic with intense wild berry fruit, candied black cherry, spiced vanilla and cola. It saturated the palate with ripe dark fruits, smokehouse wood and mineral-laden, black stone. Its intensity was well matched by a balancing acidity that kept it juicy--it was hard to believe this is 14.7% alc. The finish was loaded with dark fruit, yet clean and fresh; a really great effort, yet I feel it's an earlier drinking wine than the back label boasts. I honestly don't see this improving over the next seven to eight years--but that's because it's just so darn good now, why wait? (91 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

2006 Dettori Tuderi in the glass
Top Wines

On to some of my favorites. There were some great wines on the table this summer. Some of them young and many of them just entering their maturity. Most of these can still be found by the crafty shopper.

One of the big performers this summer was the 1999 Monsanto Nemo. I have sung its praises in the past and I’ll go down this road again. Tuscan Cabernet can be amazing, and Monsanto makes one of the best around.

These wines age beautifully and are a perfect marriage of Cabernet fruit and Tuscan character. If you’ve never tried one—seek them out, but look for one with a little age, because these beauties can go two decades and just keep getting better and better.

1999 Castello di Monsanto Nemo Toscana IGT - The nose was dark and brooding with crushed plum, raspberry and currants, as notes of spiced tobacco, graphite, and mineral stone provided depth. On the palate, intense, rich, and somewhat savory fruit was kept fresh by balanced acidity as notes of dark red and black fruit, tobacco, and cedar covered the senses. The tannins here were perfectly integrated and provided a peak drinking experience. The finish seemed to slowly melt away from the palate with saturating plum, spice and lingering notes of tobacco. I’ve enjoyed Nemo many times; this was one of the best ones that I’ve had the pleasure to taste. (95 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

Revelatory would be the word to describe my experience with the 2005 Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard. I’ve had some great Zinfandel in my day, but this was a thing of beauty. The nose alone was worth the price of entry, and it was so unique and exotic with a finesse that was unbelievable. If you’re willing to spend up to the $45+ range for a Zinfandel, I highly recommend Carlisle.

2005 Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard - The nose was intense and constantly evolving with ripe yet fresh fruits, showing stemmed strawberry and cherry, sweet floral tones, exotic spice and minerals. On the palate, it was fresh yet expanded to cover all the senses in spirited ripe cherry, plum and dark chocolate. Juicy, ripe, spiced red fruits lingered on the finish. This wine was incredible and a new experience in Zinfandel for me. (94 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

If you read my blog or have ever had a chat with me about Barolo, then I’m sure the name Giacomo Conterno won’t be new to you. Giacomo Conterno makes some of the best Barolo you can buy, and boy does it cost. However, this house also happens to produce one of the most amazing Barbera you could possibly find. It’s not cheap, but great wine hardly ever is. These are big and burly in their youth with incredible intensity—yet they age into beautifully elegant wines of class. I turned some heads with this bottle, and at $40, you can’t go wrong.

2005 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d'Alba Cascina Francia - The nose was autumnal, showing dried leaves and cherry, sweet spice and hints of citrus peel. On the palate, dried red fruits with a bitter twang, licorice and mineral soil tones swirled around the senses in a mouthwatering, slightly angular yet truly refined expression of Barbera. The finish was long and palate-staining with red berry, yet it was truly fresh. This was my last of six bottles, and I must say that I’ve enjoyed the development of this wine more than almost any other. (93 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

Back to Sardinia with a wine that’s so good, it scares me. So much so that I raced back to buy another but they were already gone. Tenute Dettori makes uber organic wines which require patience and the right taster. What I mean by this is you can’t just open one of these and drink it down like a soft drink. Each experience I’ve had with Dettori has been so much better after the bottle has been allowed to breathe between 1 – 24 hours—no joke. The fact that this is one of their entry-level wines makes it all the more attractive. This is serious juice.

2006 Tenute Dettori Tuderi Romangia IGT - The color was translucent ruby with a bouquet that literally jumped from the glass without a swirl to show ripe notes of crushed cherry, sweet floral tones and cinnamon tea--yet then traverses toward the mineral and savory realm as hints of iron, smoke and animal musk join the fray. On the palate, it entered like cherry juice, but quickly firmed up and fleshed out in all directions, showing spiced herbal tea, wild blueberry, nutmeg, and with a tart grapefruit-like twist of acidity. The finish lingered long with flavors of tart cherry and spiced blood orange, which lingered on the back of my tongue. (93 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

* Dettori Tuderi is an uber-natural wine which demands decanting and will reward the patient taster. (15.5% alcohol, but oh so balanced)

Another Riesling? I did say it was one of my most reached-for wines of the summer. However, this one is another animal entirely. What’s more, it’s just a baby. Some may call this a sweet wine, but you’d have to taste it to understand that the balance is so perfect that you could drink this any day and at any time—but be prepared to be blown away. It’s amazingly fresh, perfectly ripe, detailed and layered. It soothes the palate, yet also excites it while sending veins of electric-like flavor enhancing acidity across your senses. If you think you don’t like sweet Riesling, then you must try the Selbach-Oster Rotlay. It will make you a believer.

2010 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling 'Rotlay' - The nose was insanely beautiful, showing sweet spices and floral notes, lemon curd, ripe peach with hints orange and green grass. On the palate, it was all about perfectly balanced intensity. The weight and sweetness of this wine is at first perceptible, but then is swept away by a burst of green apple acidity, leaving a slightly oily texture with tropical fruit and citrus notes which seem to last for over a minute throughout the finish. This is a sweet wine, balancing its girth as if on the point of a needle, swinging this way and that--yet never tipping over. Love it. (94 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher

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