Saturday, January 21, 2012

This ain't yo' Mama's Zinfandel

Image Borrowed from
Do you drink Zinfandel? You really should. One of the first horror stories I learned in wine was about “White Zinfandel,” the insipid pink stuff that’s sipped at weddings, pools and underage parties around the world. Yet it’s utterly amazing how much people hate the stuff. Unfortunately, that same hated for White Zin has forever left its mark on the word “Zinfandel”.  Literally to the point that when you recommend a Zinfandel to someone, you feel obligated to explain that it’s a “red” Zinfandel—not white.

So why should you drink Zinfandel? Besides the fact that it’s an excellent value, with good bottles in nearly every price range, it’s also because the absolute best examples will only run you into the $35-$50 range. There’s also the fact that Zinfandel comes in many styles, from rich and sultry party-in-a-bottle versions to examples that are lean and focused, and excellent with food. Ridge is a producer that immediately comes to mind, and it’s easy to become lost in their large mix of great Zins. However, once in a while a new producer comes along that turns my head, and that’s exactly what happened with Talty Vineyards.

What truly sets Talty Zinfandel apart from the rest is its massive amount of rich layered fruit and spice balanced against earthy and floral notes with impeccable balance and juicy acidity. Sounds great, right? It’s even better in person.

Talty vineyards are located in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, an area truly suited to creating amazing Zins. The Talty family prides itself in creating handcrafted wines (from the “vine to the wine” as they put it). The Estate Zinfandel comes from their own six-acre vineyard, whereas the Filice Connolly is from Napa Valley. It’s hard to choose between these two bottlings. In the end, it was the ’06 Filice Connolly that truly stole my heart. It’s simply a great Zinfandel at its peak. However, they are all worth your consideration.

On to the notes:

2005 William Talty Estate Zinfandel Dry Creek – The nose was beautifully expressive with intense mixed berries, floral and stem notes, pepper, leather and sweet red candies. On the palate, it was big yet juicy with mixed berry jam and spice in a balanced and finessed expression of Zinfandel. The long staying finish remained fresh and highly enjoyable. (91 points)

2007 William Talty Estate Zinfandel Dry Creek – The nose was intense and expressive with toasty almond, sweet spices, blackberry jam, raisins and a sour cream note that added a savory balance to all the sweetness. On the palate, it was smooth as silk yet juicy with black cherry, spices and dark chocolate. It was remarkably balanced throughout and finished long, yet clean. (93 Points)

2008 William Talty Estate Zinfandel Dry Creek – The nose was more restrained than the ’05 and ’07, yet still highly enjoyable with blackberry, floral notes and black pepper. On the palate, it was juicy with red berries, black currant, spicy vanillin, and herbs. The finish was palate-coating, yet fresh with notes of sour red berries. (90 points)

The Filice Connolly Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley

2006 William Talty Napa Filice Connolly Vineyards
The nose showed perfumed red fruits, animal musk, a hint of cotton candy and sweet spices. On the palate, it was big and dark with a massive wave of rich berries and sweet spices in a balanced and remarkably fresh expression. The finish was palate-coating, yet fresh.  This is simply a great Zinfandel entering its peak drinking window. (94 points) 

2008 William Talty Napa Filice Connolly VineyardsThe nose showed mixed berries, floral perfumes, minerals and earthy stones. On the palate, it was smooth yet juicy with intense red and black fruits, brown sugar and earthy black pepper. The finish was long and fresh. (92 points)

Talty Vineyards Website!

A big thank you of Greg dal Piaz of Snooth for introducing me to Talty Vineyards.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Castello di Monsanto: Nemo

A Great Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon That You've Probably Never Heard Of

Castello di Monsanto may be best known for their Chianti Classico Riserva and Riserva Il Poggio, but what you seldom hear about is the 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, Nemo. Tuscan cabernet has been all the craze in the Maremma and Bolgieri, yet there are a number of producers from Chianti (Isole e Olena and Felsina come to mind) that excel with the varietal. For me, it all started five years ago, when a 1990 Castello di Monsanto Nemo was served to me and changed the way I looked at international varietals in Italy. To say that this wine tastes like Cabernet simply doesn't do it justice. This bottle is Tuscan through and through, and if you haven't experienced it first hand, you're doing yourself an injustice.

Nemo comes from a single vineyard, Il Mulino, on the Castello di Monsanto estate. It's then fermented with natural yeasts and spends 25 days in contact with the skins. The oak regiment could be called "International," with 18 months spent in new oak barrique. However, upon tasting this wine, the last thing you will think of is “International.” With only a few years in bottle, the new oak recedes to reveal an intense display of fruit, spice, herbs and earth, with the potential to mature into something even greater.

I'd say the only negative thing about Nemo is how hard it is to find. However, with Wine-Searcher on our side or by requesting the wine from your local retailer, maybe we can change that. At an average of $45 a bottle, this unique, pure Italian beauty, certianly deserves the attention.

2003 Castello di Monsanto Nemo Toscana - The nose was deep and engaging with rich black cherry sauce, balanced by floral notes, cedar, earth and floral undergrowth. On the palate, it was enveloping as a mix of raspberry and blueberry with baking spices, cedar and minerals engaged the sense and traversed a fine line between rich and juicy. The finish was long with cinnamon spice and bittersweet dark berries flowed by the slightest hint of tannin. In the end, the 2003 Nemo came across and perfectly balanced and a joy to drink. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Flour + Egg yolk + water + salt = Tajarin

After a short and very much needed break, following the Holiday season; Updates will continue at The V.I.P. Table this Friday.  Until then, please check out my most recent piece published at What's Cookin'.

Tajarin with Porcini Mushrooms 
A perfect pairing for Paumanok Chenin Blanc

I remember learning about beurre blanc, a classic French sauce made primarily from butter. As I tasted it, all of my senses swooned. How could something this good be so bad for you?

We are taught to stay away from many foods these days. Some I agree with, such as trans-fats and high fructose corn syrup. However, I think it's more important to practice the good things in life in moderation. A sauce made primarily of whole butter may not be something you should eat every day, but if you deny yourself the indulgence every few weeks or once a month, you simply aren't living.

This brings me to my recipe for Tajarin... Keep reading at What's Cookin'

And the wine:

2011 Paumanok Chenin Blanc - The nose shows lemon and light peach with slate, earth and minerals. On the palate, it is fresh and spritzy, with citrus and crushed stone. The finish is mouth watering, with salty minerals and lemony fruits. It is a highly enjoyable Chenin that was pleasing to both my American and French guests alike. (92 points)

Visit the Paumanok website.  Or find it with: Wine-Searcher!