What’s New in Italian Wine?

Tuscany - San GimignanoItalian wine often gets overlooked with the proliferation of New World wines invading the market, but Italy continues to be a source of new and interesting wines.  Although much of what is new in Italian wine stems from recent releases rather than new wineries, there is no shortage of the latter.  And many first time Italian wines to our shores may indeed issue from centuries old wineries.  After all, what are a few centuries to Italy?

Most intriguing to me from Tuscany are the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino and 2010 Brunello di Montalcino wines from Le Potazzine Gorelli, both of which are a home run.

Equally compelling are the organic wines from newcomer Monterotondo.  Monterotondo’s 2010 Chianti Classico Riserva positively sings from the glass.  It invokes the fecundity, purity and everlasting charm of Tuscany.

Not to be outdone, Alesandro Sderci’s Il Palazzino Chianti Classico estate has recently released the family’s outstanding 2010 Chianti Classicos.  Sderci also introduced Bertinga, an elegant Tuscan Cabernet blend, to the U.S. for the first time with the 2008 vintage.

Lest we think southern Italy the neglected step child, there are plenty of exciting wines flowing from the fabled Amalfi Coast as well as the hinterlands of Campania and points south.  Benito Ferrara, Caggiano, and Colli di Lapio make some of the best red and white wines in southern Italy.  Colli di Lapio’s outstanding 2013 Fiano di Avellino and 2010 Taurasi Vigna Andrea might be the two best white and red Campanian wines to start and finish a meal, though every wine from the diminutive Colli di Lapio estate merits seeking out.  White and red wines from Benito Ferrara and Caggiano stand out as well.

Don

Don’s April Collector Series Top Pick

fore-family-vineyards-carneros-pinot-noir-2009April’s Collector Series Top Pick belongs to an up-and-coming boutique California producer, Fore Family Vineyards.  The 2009 Fore Family Vineyard Napa Carneros Pinot Noir is a mere 208-case production and a true family affair.  I am tough on Pinots and rather particular about the ones I drink. With that said, the graceful, mouth-filling 2009 Fore Family Vineyards Carneros Napa Pinot Noir captures the essence of what draws people to Pinot Noir – elegance, complexity, and flavor.  For this reason, Fore Family Vineyards’ 2009 Pinot Napa Carneros shines and earns this month’s Top Pick.  Enjoy!

Don

Don’s April Premier Series Top Pick

donati-family-vineyard-paicines-claret-2012I really enjoy drinking good Bordeaux and the growing number of delicious Claret/Meritage offerings coming out of California. Claret, the English term for Bordeaux (an enviable union of Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, etc.), and Meritage, California’s more familiar name for Claret, always seem to offer more in the way of balance and complexity than straight varietal offerings from any single grape, and often at a more conducive price. Add the blessings of two great vintages and this month’s Top Pick becomes a toss-up. Donati’s 2012 Claret might be the best value in California Claret or Meritage on the market, as it offers plenty of delicious fruit along with excellent purity, body, and balance. At the same time, the 2010 Château Barreyre makes many overpriced, big-name Bordeaux seem wimpy and under-endowed. At 15% alcohol, it over-delivers and proves to be a crowd pleaser. Given its size and structure, the 2010 Château Barreyre is likely to continue to evolve. So, what’s this month’s Top Pick? I opt for the 2012 Donati Claret as this month’s Top Pick for immediate consumption, but you can be sure I will be stashing away the 2010 Château Barreyre for drinking later this year and next. In the interim, don’t miss this month’s exceptional white wines – Morgadio Albariño Rias Biaxas and Tamellini Soave – two of the very best wines from their respective appellations.

Don

Great California Wine Bargains

Zin GrapesIn the past decade, the number of California wineries has exploded, and with that explosion came a plethora of superior-quality bargain wines.  Although California has suffered through years of drought and small crops, the proliferation of new wineries, coupled with greater attention to viticultural areas other than Napa and Sonoma, means that wine enthusiasts don’t need stacks of $100 bills to enjoy quality wine.  Boutique and family-owned wineries are mostly behind the Golden State’s wine bargains.

Cambridge Cellars is one of the newest wineries in California’s wine scene, and the Cambridge Cellars’ Limited Series of wines stand out as bargains.  The winery’s 2013 Limited Monterey Chardonnay constitutes extraordinary value as does the Cambridge Cellars Limited 2013 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both sell for well under $20.00 a bottle.

Donati Family Vineyard in Paicines, California, fashions top-notch Cabernet Sauvignon and Claret, with the latter featuring an exceptional blend of Bordeaux varietals.  Donati’s 2012 Claret exemplifies the high quality one can acquire at an affordable price. While many California Meritage wines sell for  $50.00 and more, Donati’s Claret is a veritable bargain at $22.00.

Fore Family Vineyards, which strides the Napa/ Lake County border, turns out award-winning wines from Napa, Carneros, and Lake County.  The Fore Family’s 2009 Napa Carneros Pinot Noir exemplifies the exceptional quality emanating from dedicated family wineries in California.  At just under $40.00 a bottle, it may not be in the reach of every Pinot lover, especially those in search of the Holy Grail of Pinot Noir at $15.00, but it tops many $50.00 and $75.00 Pinots.

Napa Cellars crafts classic Napa Valley wines at incredibly affordable prices. Whether it’s Napa Cellars’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc or the winery’s award-winning Chardonnay, Pinot, Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Zinfandel, I am hard-pressed to find better quality and consistency in Napa Valley for under $25.00.

Pietra Santa in California’s Cienega Valley produces extraordinary Sangiovese along with many other varietals.  Although renowned as a producer of Sangiovese, Pietra Santa also excels lately with Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot and various white varietals.  Pietra Santa’s recently reviewed 2010 Sangiovese earned 91 Points from Wine Enthusiast and it can be purchased for $18.00.

Don

What’s New in French Wine?

Wine & CheeseWhat’s new as well as what’s great about French wine today is not so much about what new French wines there are as it is about how good many of the traditional tried and true wines are from well-established appellations. France remains a true treasure trove of affordable wines of exceptional quality, and never has this been more the case than today. Aside from that nation’s top 100 collectable wines – a subjective list in its own right – there are literally thousands of reasonably priced wine treasures in France just waiting to be discovered, or more accurately, rediscovered.

As one of the planet’s two leading purveyors of wine (Italy being the other), France not only turns out a plethora of outstanding affordable wines, it also fashions a tremendous variety of delicious wines; red, white, rosé, sparkling, dry and sweet wines all make the case for France being the world’s leading source of reasonably priced, high quality wines. So, leave the top 100 wines to the billionaires and start drinking well for so much less.

If you like a dry, zippy white wine to slake your thirst and whet your appetite, consider the 2013 Château de Fontenille Entre-Deux-Mers – a delicious white Bordeaux that pleases the palate and goes down easy. Emile Beyer’s 2013 Alsace Pinot Blanc provides another tasty, satisfying, easy drinking white wine. For Chardonnay lovers and something more substantial, consider the 2012 or 2013 Domaine de la Collonge Pouilly-Fuissé from Gilles Noblet or the 2012 Jacques Girardin Les Terrasses de Bievaux Santenay. The Girardin offering impresses with its flavor as well as its elegance, and it may constitute the absolute best value in white Burgundy.

For those who prefer Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it is hard to beat the 2009 Château Barreyre Bordeaux Supérieur. Although officially considered a petit château, there is absolutely nothing little or petite about this wine, except the price. For those who prefer the full-flavored reds of the Rhône Valley, the 2010 Guigal Gigondas and the 2012 or 2013 Chevalier Crozes-Hermitage Marius provide all the comfort and pleasure one can imagine, without breaking the bank. Better still, these are just a few of the many oenological treasures that await the savory American wine drinker. Santé!

Don