Spain’s Ribera Del Duero Region makes a strong impression
I recently attended an excellent tasting that featured wines from the Ribera Del Duero region of Spain. It’s always fascinating to taste a broad array of wines in one room from a specific part of the world. It allows side-by-side comparisons, and showcases how many excellent wines a region has. In the case of Ribera Del Duero the array of terrific wines I tasted in one day was a bit head-spinning, actually. While I’d had wines from this area before, I’d never sampled nearly as many at one time. A couple of producers kept reverberating in my mind days after the event, thus I decided to revisit a few of their wines so I could share my thoughts about them. Tempranillo has long been one of my favorite red varieties and this grape flourishes as well in Ribera Del Duero as anywhere.
The Bodegas Peñalba Lopez S.L. 2009 Los Cantos was produced from a blend of Tempranillo (95 percent) and Merlot (5 percent). The vineyards sourced were planted an average of 20 years prior to the vintage. Fermentation took place over nine days in stainless steel vats with native yeast. Barrel aging followed in French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $23. Lovely herb and floral aromas fill the nose of Los Cantos. The palate here is studded with layer upon layer of fresh, dark fruit flavors. This wine is marked by crisp acidity and refreshing flavors that beckon you back to the glass for sip after sip. Bits of French Roast coffee and sour black fruit flavors mark the finish; cherry and blackberry are of particular note and accompanied by minerals and copious spices. Los Cantos is a tremendous value in its price range. It’s the kind of wine you may want to buy a case of, to keep around for everyday drinking.
The Bodegas Peñalba Lopez S.L. 2006 Torremilanos was produced using Tempranillo (90 percent) and White Tempranillo (10 percent). White Tempranillo is a genetic mutation of the original Tempranillo grape and a relatively recent one. The vineyards sourced have more than 90 years of age on them. Fermentation took place in concrete tanks. Aging followed in a combination of French oak (80 percent), and concrete tanks (20 percent) over a period of 24 months. This selection has a suggested retail price of $30. Ripe black cherry aromas and bits of toast mark the nose of this wine. Spices such as cardamom and clove are present on the palate and support oodles of dark fruit flavors which are impressive in their combination of intensity and precision. Black tea, minerals and continued fruit flavors such as cherry are in evidence on the finish, which has excellent length and persistence. This wine will work wonderfully both on its own and paired with full-flavored foods, and is a real knockout.
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Want Killer Cabernet for Less Than $20? Look to Chile!
Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon holds a special place in my heart. Back when I was getting deeply into wine, bargain priced Cabernet Sauvignon from South America, and Chile in particular, helped drive my interest. It was amazing to me that there was so much good wine for such a low price. Cabernet from other areas didn’t seem like it could compete dollar-for-dollar with what was coming from Chile.
Flash forward 20 years and some things have changed. Bargain-basement-priced Cabernet isn’t the thing I first think about when I think of Chile — instead I’m consumed with the amazing bounty and diversity hitting our shelves from there at more than fair prices. And when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon specifically, there may not be a lot of great ones for $6 these days, but other regions still have a hard time competing with Chile dollar for dollar. This time out I’m looking at three Cabernets from Chile that retail for under $20; they really spoke to me when I tasted them side by side.
First up is the William Cole Vineyards 2010 Columbine Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This offering is 100 percent Cabernet. All of the fruit for this wine came from the Colchagua Valley. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks over eight days, and aging in French oak barrels over 12 months followed. This wine, which has a suggested retail price of $18, is widely available. Violet, plum and blueberry aromas are joined by vanilla bean on the nose of this Cabernet. The black fruit characteristics steal the show here, with blueberry and zingy black raspberry leading the way. Minerals galore, earth and spices such as black pepper and cardamom mark the finish, which is above average in length. This is an elegant and graceful Cabernet for the price point.
Next up is the Peñalolen 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine blends together Cabernet Sauvignon (85 percent), Cabernet Franc (7 percent), Merlot (6 percent) and Petit Verdot (2 percent). The fruit for this Cabernet came from the Maipo valley. After fermentation, barrel aging took place over 12 months, and 20 percent of the barrels utilized were new. Roughly 80,000 cases of this vintage were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of $19. Aromas of Red Delicious Apple emerge from the nose of this Cabernet. Cherries, spice and bits of red raspberry are present as well. The palate here is proportionate and balanced with loads of red fruits, joined by hints of cinnamon and pepper. Soft tannins mark the structure, which is all about balance and grace. This Cabernet leans toward red fruit flavors from the first whiff to the last note on the finish, which has solid length. This is an approachable, food friendly Cabernet Sauvignon that will drink well over the next five years. This wine will work with a wider array of foods than the average Cabernet.
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Mumm Napa offers a window into new world sparkling wine
Several times a year, I head out to California to taste wine. Often, I spend the bulk of my time there in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. One of my personal goals each time out is to spend most of my tasting time at producers I haven’t visited, or at least haven’t been to in a long time. Sometimes the properties I haven’t been to yet surprise even me! So on my most recent trip, when I was compiling a list of potential appointments, Mumm Napa was on the short list. Amazingly, even though I’ve tasted in Napa for about 20 years, I never stopped here before.
Since it was my first time, I arranged a tour and tasting so I could see the facility and then sample the wines. The tour was very consumer-friendly and took us through the winemaking facility with stops along the way to check out videos of their processes. If you’ve toured a winery, but not one that makes sparkling wine, you should do so to note the number of differences and unique steps involved. I’ve been on a number of tours at sparkling wine houses and I‘m still fascinated. Along the way we sampled three of their widely available offerings. The tour was conducted at a nice pace, leaving plenty of time for questions from the group. Once the tour was over I broke off from the group and sat down on their tasting deck with a friend who joined me that day, to do a more comprehensive tasting. They offer lots of different options for tastings at Mumm Napa and it’s a highly recommended stop for those who love California sparkling wine. There were a number of wines that I really enjoyed. Here’s a look at a trio of my favorites.
The Mumm Napa Brut Prestige was made from a combination of Pinot Noir (51 percent), Chardonnay (46 percent), Pinot Meunier (2 percent), and Pinot Gris (1 percent). The first three grapes are the classic triumvirate most often associated with sparkling wine; The Pinot Gris is something out of the standard realm that they have added. Fermentation took place primarily in stainless steel, and 18 months of aging on yeast followed. This widely available Brut style wine has a suggested retail price of $22. Bits of citrus and white stone fruits fill the nose this wine. This is an entry level selection in the Mumm portfolio, and it’s a classic Brut. The palate is dry and loaded with fruit and spice. Yeast and biscuit characteristics emerge on the finish, which has nice length. While the friendly price makes it an obvious choice for holiday celebrations, this wine will go very well with food whether it’s paired with a first course during dinner or alongside brunch. You’ll be pleased with the results.
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Food/drink product roundup: Hint Water, Hungry Man Pub Favorites and Sledgehammer Wines
Yes, trying and reviewing food and drink, and even alcoholic drinks, is a tough job. But someone has to do it. Here are a few new products that either came to me with promotions attached to them or not:
Hint flavored water–I drink a ton of flavored seltzer, so the thought of non-carbonated water scared me just a bit. But alas, this Hint stuff is pretty damn good. They sent six flavors, including Watermelon, Blackberry, Mango-Grapefruit and Strawberry-Kiwi. The Strawberry-Kiwi flavor comes with a special label–that of Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo to promote the new Yogi Bear movie that debuts in December and stars Justin Timberlake and Anna Farris. You can win tickets to the movie by visiting www.drinkhint.com/yogi. Anyway, this stuff is delicious, and it doesn’t come with a sugary aftertaste because there is no sugar at all. If you need a break from carbonation or need flavor in your water, definitely start here.
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Posted in: Food & Drink, Grub for Guys, New Stuff, Wine
Tags: drink, food, Growlater iPhone app, grub, Guilty Pleasures, Hint Water, Hungry Man Pub Favories, late night munchies, Sledgehammer Wine, Wine, Yogi Bear