Featured Tasting:

New Releases from Spain,
California and Argentina
 

October 2008

SPANISH SELECTIONS, PART I

Spain has the largest area planted to vineyards of any country in the world. While consumers worldwide are familiar with the wines from Spain’s most highly regarded regions – Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat – almost none are familiar with all 67 D.O.’s of the country. Many of these D.O.’s produce wines that are at the very least interesting, often from indigenous varietals not well known outside Spain. But some relatively unknown D.O.’s produce wines of both exceptional value and quality. The International Wine Review has the goal of searching out and reviewing these wines, and this month’s reviews of wines from Campo de Borja, Mentrida, Monterrei, Pla de Bages, Priorat, Rias Baixas, Ribera del Duero, and Rioja is the first of two monthly issues on Spanish Selections.

Campo de Borja

The Campo de Borja D.O. is located in the province of Zaragoza within the comunidad autonoma of Aragon and south of Navarra. The Monastery of Venuela played a key role in the development of wine in this region, both before and after the period of Moorish domination even well into the 20th century. Campo de Borja’s climate is continental with a strong Atlantic influence. The principal grapes for red wine are Garnacha, with 75% of plantings, and Tempranillo, and those for white wine are Macabeo (i.e., Viura) and Moscatel. Garnacha, or Grenache, is the principal grape grown by the Bodegas Quo, whose wines are tasted here. Our favorite is the 2006 Old Vines Grenache—it’s fruity, rich and good value, too.

Bodegas Quo 2007 Grenache Campo de Borja ($10) 86

A medium dark ruby Grenache with a lovely, aromatic black cherry nose accented with figs and herbs. Reveals a soft, fruity attack but is light on the palate with a mildly astringent finish.

Importer: The Artisan Collection , Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Bodegas Quo 2007 Grenache Rosé Campo de Borja ($10) 86

A 100% Grenache based rose of medium bright rose color and a candied strawberry nose. Shows a dry, clean attack of light strawberry fruit and minerals. Finishes a tad short.

Importer: The Artisan Collection , Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Bodegas Quo 2007 Macabeo Chardonnay Campo de Borja ($) 87

This blend of 80% Macabeo (Viura), 15% Chardonnay, and 5% Muscat is light gold with an appealing rose tinge and a rose petal bouquet. Very, very dry with lime and clementine citrus on the palate with a somewhat short finish. Chardonnay flavors don’t come through. Might make a great cava.

Importer: The Artisan Collection , Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Bodegas Quo 2006 Old Vines Grenache Campo de Borja Bodegas Quo 2006 Old Vines Grenache Campo de Borja ($18) 89

Dark ruby. Displays an attractive, complex, spicy nose of red and black fruit. The dry attack is flavorful, revealing a rich palate of earth, red berries and minerals with a nice blueberry note. Nice balance and texture overall, and finishes long.

Importer: The Artisan Collection , Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Méntrida

Mentrida is a D.O. located in the northeast corner of the province of Toledo, located in the Castile-La Mancha comunidad autonoma not far from the capitol of Madrid. While it does not have an illustrious wine history, it has made rapid progress in recent years. Mentrida has a continental climate of hot summers and cold winters. Most vineyards are at an altitude between 400 and 600 meters with sandy-clay soils. Garnacha is by far the dominant grape in this region, representing 80 percent of all acreage, but it turns out that a rich, dense, black 2006 Malpaso Syrah made by Canopy SL is our favorite wine from this region.

Canopy SL 2006 Malpaso Méntrida ($30) 90

Canpoy is a new winery with vineyards in the San Vicente mountain range, at 750 meters. The 2006 Malpaso is a 100 percent opaque ruby Syrah that offers aromas of ripe black fruit and richly concentrated spicy black fruit flavors. On the palate it reveals lovely soft mouth feel, excellent balance, slightly chunky tannins and a long lasting finish. A big beauty of a wine.

Importer: Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

Canopy SL 2006 Tres Patas Méntrida ($30) 89

An 80/20 blend of 50+ year old Garnacha and Syrah, the 2006 Tres Patas displays a dark ruby color and fresh red spicy fruit aromas on the nose. Sourced from high altitude old vines Grenache, it offers highly extracted red fruit and earthy flavors on the palate with plenty of acidity, round tannins and good grip on the finish. A lovely wine.

Importer: Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

La Verdosa 2003 Arrayan Premium Méntrida ($43) 85

An interesting blend of 55% Syrah, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot fermented in stainless steel and aged 11 months in 100% Allier French oak. The color is opaque ruby with a garnet rim showing an exotic mix of black fruit, oriental spice, earth, and mushroom. The very ripe black fruit attack is very soft with notes of licorice. Dry gripping tannins on the finish provide a jarring note.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Monterrei

The Monterrei D.O. is located in the province of Ourense within the Galicia comunidad autonoma. It is one of the smallest D.O.’s in Spain with just five bodegas to its name. The vineyards of the region are located on either side of the Tamega river near the border with Portugal. The climate of the region is heavily influenced by the Atlantic. Monterrei is mainly know for its white wine, especially Godello. We tasted only one wine from Monterrei in this month’s selections: the Bodegas Pazo das Tapias 2007 Alma de Blanco is an excellent example of a fragrant, full-bodied Godello.

Bodegas Pazo das Tapias 2007 Alma de Blanco Monterrei ($15) 88

Spicy, light honeysuckle aromas emanate from this attractive, light lemon colored, 100% full-bodied Godello. The attack is soft with a full mouth feel, ripe pear flavors, and a long, dry finish. A very interesting and food friendly wine.

Importer: The Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Pla de Bages

The Pla de Bages is one Spain’s newest D.O.’s. It is located within the comunidad autonoma of Catalonia with most vineyards located in the valleys of the Llobregat River with a predominantly Mediterranean climate. Many of the vineyards in this region produce base grapes for Cava, and it is the interest of these vineyards in producing quality reds that is the force behind Pla de Bages’ recent advances. While local varietals still dominate, the most popular newly planted grape varieties are Grenache and Tempranillo, although a large number of French varieties have recently been authorized and are also increasingly being planted. Those French varieties are prominent in our favorite Pla de Bages tasted this month. The Bodegas Masies D’Avinyo 2001 Abadal Reserva is a super ripe, rich, earthy blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. We gave it a whopping 91!

Bodegas Masies D' Avinyo 2001 Abadal Reserva Pla de Bages ($27) 91

This is a super ripe earthy wine with a complex nose of plum, black currants, and smoked meat. It is soft and round on the palate with rich concentrated sweet black and red fruit flavors. Reservas like this are rarely this juicy and well balanced with soft tannins and a long satisfying finish. It is also from a great vintage.

Importer: Grapes of Spain , Lorton, VA

Bodegas Masies D' Avinyo 2003 Abadal Reserva 3.9 Pla de Bages ($40) 90

This bottling is an opaque purple blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. It displays a fresh aromatic nose of dark cherries, plums and violets with a soft attack of nicely framed spicy black fruit. Delicious and easy to drink, it has a nicely structured palate with rounded tannins and a long finish. A pretty wine.

Importer: Grapes of Spain , Lorton, VA

Bodegas Masies D' Avinyo 2005 Abadal Crianza Pla de Bages ($19) 88

This dark ruby blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot offers aromas of spicy black and red fruit followed by a soft attack and a flavorful palate of black berries and herbs. The wine is bold and well-structured and long lasting on the finish. Importer: Grapes of Spain , Lorton, VA

Priorat

Priorat is a DOCa. (denominacion de origen calificada) located in the province of Tarragona in the Catalan comunidad autonoma of Spain. The DOCa qualification refers to a wine-growing region of exceptional quality, and Priorat and Rioja are the only regions in Spain to gain the right to this classification. Winegrowing in Priorat dates from the 12th century when the monks of the Monastery of Scala Dei began cultivating vines. The soil of this region is unique in Spain with its volcanic origin. The climate is one of cold winters and hot summers. Garnacha Tinta is the most widely planted grape. Most wines are made from Garnacha Tinta or a blend of Garnacha Tinta and Carinena. And that indeed is the blend of the Celler Bartolome 2004 Primitiu de Bellmunt, which is silky smooth and beautifully balanced, and earns a 92 on our 100 point scale.

Celler Bartolome 2004 Primitiu de Bellmunt Priorat ($50) 92

Dark ruby with lovely aromas of red plum, coffee, and minerals. Silky smooth on the attack with ripe black fruit and oak flavors, mouth filling and beautifully balanced with soft round firm tannins and a rich long lasting finish. A gorgeous wine that will get better with age.

Importer: Antalva Imports, Inc, Los Angeles, CA

Celler Burgos-Porta 2004 Mas Sinen Priorat ($49) 89

This 2004 Mas Sinén displays a lovely medium ruby color with attractive aromas of plum blackberry, violets and cedar. On the palate is offers rich ripe dark red fruit flavors with nicely integrated wood spice. The tannins are round but chewy and need more time to integrate with this delicious wine.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Rias Baixas

The Rias Baixas D.O. is located in Spain’s Galicia comunidad autonoma. Rias Baixas is mainly known for its white wines made from Albarino, a grape brought to the region by Cluny monks in the 12th century. Albarino has a perfumed bouquet evocative of white flowers, peaches and apricots. Rias Baixas also has two sub-regions – Rosal and Condado – which have their own unique styles and terroirs. The Rias Baixas climate is Atlantic with fog, high rainfall, and cold, wet winters. The best Albarinos combine floral and fruit aromas with a fresh, fruity palate and good acidity. Try the 2007 Lagar de Costa Albarino for a good benchmark.

Adega Condes de Albarei 2007 White Wine Rias Baixas ($15) 90

Medium lemon color with a slightly effervescent appearance. Floral and almond, lemon zest and white peach aromas give way to a nice rich, ripe attack. Creamy and mouthfilling on the palate. Nicely balanced, too, with flavors of citrus and spicy white peach and a long finish.

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

Bodega La Val 2007 Orballo Rias BaixasBodega La Val 2007 Orballo Rias Baixas ($21) 88

Owner Jose Limeres was a pioneer in making an estate Albariño. This is a highly aromatic, medium lemon colored wine with hints of pear, melon, touch of passion fruit. The soft, fruity, somewhat tart attack gives way to a very dry palate with neutral fruit flavors, chalk, and minerals.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain New York, NY

Castro Baroña 2006 Lagar de Castelo Albariño Rias Baixas ($15) 85

This 100% Albariño is bright yellow gold with an effervescent appearance. It displays an assertive bouquet of herbs, fruit, and even a touch of petrol. There's a pungent character to the palate with notes of grass, and it finishes unexpectedly dry.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Lagar de Costa 2007 Lagar de Costa Rias Baixas ($25) 88

Lagar de Costa 2007 Lagar de Costa Rias BaixasLagar de Costa is a small (6 hectares) winery producing wine from Albarino grapes grown on its own estate in front of the island of La Toja. This wine is medium lemon color with an enticing floral and tropical passion fruit nose. The palate is fresh and crisp with good acidity and a crisp finish. All told, a very pleasant wine! Try with summer fruit salad.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Quinta de Couselo 2007 Rosal Rias Baixas ($22) 87

This is an interesting Galacian wine made of three local varietals--70% Albarino, 20% Loureiro, and 10% White Caino. It's light lemon in color with fresh citrus aromas and a crisp attack. The slightly tart palate shows high acidity, light fruit flavors, and a refreshing on the finish. Very nicely done, and interesting, too.

Importer: Antalva Imports, Inc, Los Angeles, CA

Quinta de Couselo 2007 Turonia Rias Baixas ($22) 88

This is a 100% Albariño wine, light lemon in color with aromas of apple, pear and hints of banana skin. Soft on the attack, light apple and kiwi fruit flavors complement the round, rich mouthfeel. Finishes crisp and dry.

Importer: Antalva Imports, Inc, Los Angeles, CA

Ribera del Duero

Although Ribera del Duero is home to some of Spain’s most venerated wines—including Vega Sicilia, it gained DO status only in 1982. Ribera del Duero is located on either side of the Duero river within the Castilla y Leon comunidad autonoma. The main grape of the region is Tinto Fino (Tempranillo). The reputation of Ribera del Duero for producing world class wines is sufficiently strong that it is likely to be the third DO (after Rioja and Priorat) to gain DOCa status. See the International Wine Review report on Ribera del Duero for in-depth research and analysis of the region and its wines. In this month’s tasting, we review several top-notch wines with prices to match. But look for a bargain in the Bodegas Finca Torremilanos 2004 Torre Albeniz which is made from high altitude old vines (85+ years old). We gave it 92 points, and it costs only $30. Now that’s a deal!

Bodegas Felix Callejo 2005 Felix Callejo Ribera del Duero ($125) 95

Estate grown, very low yielding Tinto Fino fruit from 60+ year old vines and aged 15 months in new French oak barrels. Opaque ruby-purple color with black spice and dark fruit aromas. There’s great purity of concentrated dark plum fruit with notes of violets and dark chocolate. Big and extracted, with violets, plum. The finish is round, juicy and very long. Spectacular!

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain New York, NY

Bodegas Finca Torremilanos 2004 Crianza Ribera del DueroBodegas Finca Torremilanos 2004 Crianza Ribera del Duero ($30) 89

This 2004 Torremilanos Crianza exhibits a dark ruby color and offers lovely aromas of dried black cherry fruit aromas and toasted oak. On the palate, the wine is soft, bold and concentrated with good balance, round tannins and good tannic grip. A fine wine with big fruit flavors, which are a hallmark of Ribera del Duero Tempranillo.

Importer: Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

Bodegas Finca Torremilanos 2007 Monte Castillo Rosado Ribera del Duero ($14) 87

Medium rose color. Intense fruity candied strawberry nose. Nice dry, crisp palate lightly fruited with strawberry and rose petal notes. Finishes dry.

Importer: Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

Bodegas Finca Torremilanos 2006 Monte Catrillo Ribera del Duero ($14) 88

This is a delicious spicy Tempranillo that offers a lovely dark ruby color and aromas of fresh black cherry and cedar. It is soft on the attack with plenty of ripe fruit on the palate, and has round firm tannins. You can drink this wine now and enjoy it with roast chicken, pork or other light meat dishes. Very pleasant.

Importer: Grapes of Spain , Lorton, VA

Bodegas Finca Torremilanos 2004 Torre Albeniz Ribera del Duero ($30) 92

This dark ruby 100% Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero offers attractive aromas of plum, black cherry and toasted oak. Sourced from high altitude vineyards of old vines--85 years or more--it reveals dense black cherry fruit and spicy flavors on the palate followed by tannic grip and a long lasting finish. A beautifully crafted wine that will show even better after another year or two in the bottle. Hold it if you can resist the temptation to drink a delicious wine.

Importer: Grapes of Spain, Lorton, VA

Bodegas Illana 2006 Casa de Illana Joven Ribera Del Jucar ($10) 85

This medium ruby 85% Tempranillo, 15% Syrah blend displays aromas of mushroom, earth, and underlying red plum fruit. There's light fruit and sweet vanilla oak on the palate.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Pago de los Capellanes 2005 Crianza Ribera del Duero ($34) 88

A 90/10 blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon blended afeter being aged 12 months in mostly new French oak. This Crianza's color is dark ruby with a purple tinge. The nose is fruit-centric, almost carbonic with a soft attack of rich, black cherry fruit. Very pleasant, nicely balanced, and straightforward on the palate with round, soft tannins and a nice gripping finish. Very nicely done!

Importer: Antalva Imports, Inc, Los Angeles, CA

Pago de los Capellanes 2004 Finca el Picon Ribera del Duero ($240) 96

Pago de los Capellanes 2004 Finca el Picon Ribera del DueroThe grapes for the Picon Capellanes come from a single, unique two hectare parcel. This extraordinary, terroir-driven wine is opaque ruby in color with la dense perfumed nose of loam, minerals, and violets. The beautifully balanced palate is soft and lush with flavors of black fruit, bitter chocolate, and violets. It's cream and unctuous with the black cherry and chocolate combination of Black Forest cake, only much better!! Expensive,yes. But compare this wine with what you'll get for the same price in Bordeaux, and you may very well conclude it's a bargain.

Importer: Antalva Imports, Inc, Los Angeles, CA

Pago de los Capellanes 2004 Parcela el Nogal Ribera del Duero ($80) 90

This is a single vineyard wine of dark ruby color, showing a lovely nose of dark plum and loam with touch of tar. The lush and silky mouthfeel is soft with rich flavors of nicely integrated, spicy oak infused fruit. You'd best buy this wine in bulk (if you can afford it) because you'll never get tired of drinking it.

Importer: Antalva Imports, Inc, Los Angeles, CA

Pago de los Capellanes 2004 Reserva Ribera del Duero ($53) 92

A 90% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon blend aged 18 months in new French oak. Unfiltered and unclarified. Beautiful dark ruby in color with rich aromas of loam and black fruit. This fruit-rich, Reserva is densely concentrated with rich black fruit flavors that linger on the silky palate. The tannins are soft and ripe on the finish. Absolutely first rate!!

Importer: Antalva Imports, Inc, Los Angeles, CA

Bodegas Tabula 2006 Damana 5 Ribera Del Duero ($17) 88

Bodegas Tabula 2006 Damana 5 Ribera Del DueroBased on fruit from Olivares del Duero in the heart of the Ribera del Duero D.O. and aged five months in French oak, this 100% Tempranillo has a distinctive Ribera del Duero character. Exhibits dark red fruit and oaky earthy aromas. Soft and inviting on the attack with ripe black fruit flavors and a touch of chocolate. Nicely extracted with good balance, round tannins and a firm finish.

Importer: Casa Ventura Imports Bellingham, WA

Valdubon 2003 Crianza Ribera del DueroValdubon 2003 Crianza Ribera del Duero ($18) 88

Medium ruby garnet color with aromas of leather and earth and prominent balsamic notes. Sweet oak, vanilla, and balsamic flavors and present on the palate. This is a traditionally styled Ribera del Duero that will go well with food.

Importer: Freixenet USA , Sonoma, CA

Valdubon 2002 Reserva Ribera del Duero ($23) 89

Youthful, medium dark ruby in color, with aromas of black cherry, leather, and loam. Has a medium weight, nicely balanced palate with a soft attack and an elegant mouthfeel and a long lasting finish. Overall, very successful.

Importer: Freixenet USA , Sonoma, CA

Valdubon 2005 Tinto Joven Ribera del Duero ($11) 87

Medium dark ruby in color with bright aromas of dark cherry. Spicy. This is a medium weight, nicely balanced, fairly straightforward wine with spicy dark cherry flavors and a pleasant finish. Ä great tapas wine!

Importer: Freixenet USA , Sonoma, CA

Rioja

Rioja is Spain’s singularly most famous wine region and is also the first wine region to have been granted DOCa status, signifying a region of exceptionally high quality wine. Rioja is also the only wine region to extend into two comunidades autonomas—La Rioja and the Basque Country. While Tempranillo is the principal grape of Rioja, other commonly grown reds are Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo. Viura is the principal white grape grown. Vineyards are planted along both sides of the Ebro river running from the Cantabrian mountains in the northwest towards the southeast. Rioja’s climate is continental with a strong Mediterranean influence that diminishes as one moves northwest towards the Cantabrians. See the International Wine Review’s August 2008 report on Rioja for an in depth analysis of Rioja and its wines. In this month’s tasting we have the good fortune to taste one of Rioja’s outstanding wines—the elegant, plum and chocolate Bodegas San Prudencio 2005 Conclave Esencia—which we rate a solid 93.

Bodegas San Prudencio 2005 Conclave Essencia ($140) 93

This is a first-class wine produced by a small winery in Rioja owned and operated by a young winemaker Ruben Sáenz López and his brother. A blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, this gorgeous wine is aged 12 months in French oak and reveals a dark ruby color with prominent toasty oak and black cherry aromas. It is an elegant, beautifully balanced and integrated wine with a silky texture and rich plum and chocolate flavors. Finishes very long with absolutely no harshness. This is a big leap forward for this young winery.

Importer: Artisan Collection, Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY

Finca Valpiedra 2004 Reserva Rioja ($40) 91

Finca Valpiedra 2004 Reserva RiojaA blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo aged 18 months in new French oak. Medium dark ruby color with an absolutely lovely bouquet of blackberry, blueberry, and charred wood. The attack is soft and silky attack with a smooth transition to an elegant and beautifully balanced, well-structured palate of dark red fruit. What a lovely Rioja!

Importer: CIV USA Sacramento, CA

Marques de Caceres 2005 Crianza Rioja ($15) 87

An 85% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha Tinta medium dark ruby blend aged in oak for 12 months and in bottle for 14 months. Has a youthful, fresh nose and a soft, almost lush attack. Medium weight on the nicely balanced palate, with flavors of red and black fruit and gripping tannins.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc.

CALIFORNIA SELECTIONS

This month the International Wine Review had the opportunity to taste some terrific wines coming out of the Golden State from the 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintages. The selections we tasted this month were, overall, outstanding. However, even among outstanding wines there are always those that excel on either quality or value. Among the quality standouts are Talley Vineyards 2006 Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay (93 points), the Ramey 2006 Russian River Valley Chardonnay (92 points), the Paraiso 2006 West Terrace Pinot Noir (91 points), the Talley Vineyards 2006 Stone Corral Pinot Noir (91 points), the Ramey 2005 Pedegral Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (94 points), and the incredible Ramey 2005 Jericho Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (95 points). While California wines have not decreased in price, we were still able to find some reasonable values, including the Talley Vineyards 2006 Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($32, 91 points), the Estancia 2005 Central Coast Shiraz ($12, 90 points), and the Paraiso Santa Lucia 2005 Highlands Syrah ($20, 91 points).

Benziger Signaterra 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Shone Farm Vineyard Russian River Valley ($27) 88

Made from organically grown grapes, this racy California Sauvignon Blanc is pale straw color with fragrant floral and passion fruit aromas with a grassy-lime note. The medium weight palate shows ripe gooseberry and citrus flavors with razor like acidity. Finishes crisply.

Benziger Signaterra 2006 Pinot Noir Bella Luna Vineyard Russian River Valley ($49) 89

Medium ruby color and earth-tinged, dark cherry aromas. A terroir driven wine that is rich and mouthfilling with assertive flavors of black cherry, nicely integrated oak, and a bitter note of cherry pit. Finishes nicely with a mineral note.

Estancia 2007 Pinot Grigio California ($12) 87

A Pinot Grigio made from ripe California fruit aged two months in neutral oak. It’s light lemon straw in color with floral, melon and pear aromas and a hint of pine needle. Displays a soft, fruity attack with attractive pear and apple flavors on the palate and finishes nicely with moderate acidity.

Estancia 2005 Shiraz Central Coast ($12) 90

Dark ruby. Blackberry and pepper aromas with notes of savory herbs. Soft, silky attack. On the palate, violets, note of blueberry, fruit rich, blackberry pie. Good gripping tannins on a fruit rich finish. An absolutely lovely wine. Superb!

Howell Mountain Vineyards 2006 Bear & Lion Zinfandel Napa Valley ($26) 87

Medium ruby. This is a high alcohol Zinfandel (15.5%) that shows aromas of earth, anise, minerals and spicy fruit and a surprisingly dry, earthy palate with a somewhat tart finish.

Distributor: The Sorting Table Napa, CA

Howell Mountain Vineyards 2004 Beatty Ranch & Black Sears Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($64) 91

Dark ruby. Beautiful, complex aromas of graphite, minerals, slate, plums and blueberries. Nicely balanced and extracted on the palate with good acidity, spice, black currants, and a hint of cedar. Given 20 months in new oak, this archetypical Napa Cabernet is surprisingly well balanced and integrated.

Distributor: The Sorting Table, Napa, CA

Morgan 2007 Metallico Un-Oaked Monterrey ($22) 88

Medium lemon straw. Cold-tank fermented and whole cluster pressed fruit predominantly from Arroyo Seco AVA. Does not undergo malolactic fermentation. Lychee, pear, and melon aromas with a surprising leesy note. Melon and fruit cocktail flavors with a nice touch of spice on the palate. Finishes crisply with good acidity.

Morgan 2006 Pinot Noir Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($62) 90

Morgan 2006 Pinot Noir Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia HighlandsBright medium ruby. The 26 acre Double L Vineyard, located at the northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands, is organically farmed. Completely destemmed and mostly whole berry fermentation. Aged 11 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Fragrant dark cherry and black raspberry aromas with a hint of mint. Soft attack with a slight bitter cherry pit note. Lush palate with flavors of high-toned, brambly dark red fruit, nicely integrated lightly toasted oak, and herbs. Has a persistent, flavorful dark cherry finish. A very nice Pinot.

Morgan 2006 Pinot Noir Tondre Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands ($45) 89

Medium ruby. The single vineyard Tondre Grapefield was planted in 1997 with soils of crushed grant, gravel, and sandy loam. The wine is aged 11 months in 50% new French oak. Toasted oak, leather and cherry aromas. Shows a very fruity attack of raspberry and cherry and an earthy, red fruit palate. Finishes very long with ripe, round tannins.

Paraiso Vineyards 2006 Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands ($18) 87

Deep lemon gold with fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands aged 11 months in French oak. On the nose, very ripe melon and tropical fruit aromas with an herbal accent. On the palate, it is soft, rich and slightly tart with good Chardonnay fruit flavors. The medium length finish is dry and pleasant.

Paraiso Vineyards 2005 Syrah Ëstate Santa Lucia Highlands ($20) 91

Opaque ruby. Santa Lucia Highlands fruit aged 18 months in French and American oak. Black fruit, blueberry. Shows a sumptuous nose of freshly ground black pepper, blackberry liqueur, toasted oak, and a touch of tobacco with a suave, fleshy attack. The impressive, fruit rich palate gives flavors of blackberry, blueberry, coffee, and a note of cocoa powder. There are soft, round tannins with intense notes of high-toned black fruit on the finish. Not only is this a wine of impressive quality, it’s also an absolute bargain!

Paraiso Vineyards 2006 West Terrace Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands ($40) 91

Medium dark ruby color. The Santa Lucia Highlands fruit is a product of five different Pinot Noir clones, aged in French oak for 18 months. On the nose, red fruit aromas are interwoven with toasty oak, loamy earth, and leather. This beautifully balanced Pinot Noir is terroir driven in style with abundant flavors of leather and earth with a lovely pure dark cherry fruit core. Ripe, round tannins contribute to the easy drinking character of this multidimensional wine.

Ramey Wine Cellars

Ramey Wine CellarsWinemaker Dave Ramey is one of the new pioneers of California wine. After working for Christian Mouiex in Bordeaux and later at Dominus in Napa, he consulted with a number of top-flight wineries in California before establishing his own winery in 1996. His name is now almost synonymous with classy California Chardonnay with both general appellation and single vineyard offerings. Equally, if not even more impressive, are his Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon offerings. In all his wines, he successfully marries rich, ripe California fruit with the less flamboyant style of winemaking common to much of Western Europe.

Ramey Wine Cellars 2006 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($38) 91

Bright deep lemon gold. Lemon curd and tropical fruit aromas erupt from this bright, deep lemon gold Sonoma Chardonnay. There’s a soft, lush attack, a velvety mouth-feel, and highly focused purity of flavor on the palate. Finishes with light oak and fruit flavors and good grip.

Ramey Wine Cellars 2006 Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($38) 92

Yellow gold. Mellow nose of expensive oak, melon and stone fruit with hint of crème caramel. Beautifully balanced with a seamless texture and multiple layers on the palate that fold together into a harmonious whole. Absolutely sumptuous!

Ramey Wine Cellars 2006 Chardonnay Carneros District ($38) 90

Lemon gold. Rich, complex nose of roasted nuts, ripe melon and pear fruit. Very flavorful, somewhat lean attack of integrated fruit and oak. Finishes medium long with very good acidity that makes this a superb food wine. Try with roasted garlic chicken.

Ramey Wine Cellars 2005 Jericho Canyon Vineyard Napa Valley ($110) 95

Opaque ruby to the rim. This is the final Ramey vintage from this vineyard, whose owners will now make their own. An 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot blend that erupts with an awesome bouquet of extracted black fruit, coffee liqueur, and charred oak. There’s a soft, velvety attack of concentrated black fruit with a voluptuous palate of coconut, blackberry liqueur, and dark chocolate truffle. Incredible complexity throughout finishing very long with silky round tannins. A celebratory wine.

Ramey Wine Cellars 2005 Pedregal Vineyard Oakville ($140) 94

Opaque ruby to the rim. This Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot blend shows a tight bouquet of ripe cassis, minerals, and leather with a note of sweet, unctuous Pedro Ximenez. Beautiful, soft, attack of dense black fruit, tar, charred oak, and cola. An approachable yet muscular wine with lovely balance.

Ramey Wine Cellars 2005 Syrah Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($65) 93

Opaque ruby. There’s more than a touch of the Northern Rhone in this beautiful Syrah, which is co-fermented with 3 % Viognier. Offers intriguing aromas of minerals, smoky blackberry fruit, and savory herbs. On the beautifully balanced palate, there are opulent flavors of high-toned black fruit, espresso, and a touch of hickory smoked bacon. The finish is excellent, long, and persistent.

Silverado Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($45) 92

Opaque ruby core. A Bordeaux blend that is predominantly (87%) Cabernet Sauvignon aged 17 months in 80% French, 20% American oak. Very ripe smoky, cassis nose with notes of white ash. Deep, rich flavors of espresso, licorice, and ripe blackberry fruit layered with toasted oak There are good gripping tannins on the long finish. This is a wine for aging but ready to drink now. Perfect wine for a grilled steak.

Talley Vineyards

Talley VineyardsThe Talley family farm started off by growing specialty vegetables in San Luis Obispo County. It still does so, but Talley’s reputation today stems from Don Talley’s decision to plant experimental vineyard plots in 1982. Today, those experimental plots have expanded to 190 acres covering five vineyards in the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys. Winemaker Leslie Mead leads the Talley team in producing some of the finest hand-crafted and terroir-driven Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines that California has to offer.

Talley Vineyards 2006 Oliver's Vineyard Chardonnay Edna Valley ($32) 91

Lemon gold. From a low-yielding, single vineyard, the Chardonnay fruit is 100% barrel fermented and aged sur lies 16 months in 30% new French oak. Exudes a ripe, tropical fruit nose with toasty lees notes complemented by a nice, balanced attack of ripe grapefruit, citrus, vanilla, and toast. Silky and round in the mouth with seamlessly integrated fruit and oak. Beautifully done!

Talley Vineyards 2006 Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay Arroyo Grande Valley ($42) 93

Medium lemon gold. From the very low-yielding (1.8 tons/acre) Rincon Vineyard, 100% barrel fermented and aged sur lies 14 months in 30% new French oak. Displays aromas of ripe lemon and citrus with accents of lees and smoke. Velvety textured and round in the mouth with very flavorful, ripe passion fruit and seamlessly integrated oak. Finishes long and flavorful with soft, round tannins and good grip. An evolving, intellectual wine that can stimulate an entire dinner conversation.

Talley Vineyards 2006 Rosemary's Vineyard Chardonnay Arroyo Grande Valley ($32) 89

Pure lemon gold. From Rosemary’s Vineyard, 100% barrel fermented and aged sur lies 14 months in 30% new French oak. Aromas evocative of ripe stone fruit, apricots, and buttered toast . Has a dry, lean Macon-like mid-palate laden with minerals. Toasted oak notes appear on the finish.

Talley Vineyards 2006 Estate Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley ($36) 90

Produced from the very low yielding (1.4 tons/acre) Rosemary’s and Rincon vineyards and aged 15 months in 30% new French oak. Medium ruby color. Shows an ample, brambly cherry nose with notes of cedar and minerals. Freshness and purity permeate all aspects of this beautifully crafted Pinot, from the soft, balanced attack to the elegant, polished palate and finishing long, long, long with cola-accented cherry fruit.

Talley Vineyards 2006 Edna Valley Pinot Noir Edna Valley ($32) 89

Medium ruby. Stone Corral Vineyard fruit is aged 14 months sur lies in 30% new French oak. Very attractive aromas of pure cherry fruit with toasty oak notes with a beautiful soft, lush attack of vibrant cherry and cola flavors that carry through to the palate, along with notes of earth and spice, finishing long.

Talley Vineyards 2006 Stone Corral Vineyard Pinot Noir Edna Valley ($50) 92

Medium dark ruby in color. Fruit comes from the Stone Corral Vineyard aged 16 months sur lies in 35% new French oak. There are deep aromas of high toned cassis fruit. A very flavorful, attack of abundant red and black fruit leads to a complex, deeply flavored palate and an equally intense and persistent finish. This is a wine that will continue to evolve and improve in bottle.

Talley Vineyards 2006 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley ($70) 91

Medium ruby. Brambly cherry nose with prominent notes of cedar. Fresh and pure. Soft attack and. beautifully balanced presentation of more black than red fruit. Elegant and seamless with good acidity. Lovely, long, long finish of cherry fruit with a touch of cola.

Talley Vineyards 2006 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley ($58) 92

Bright ruby, Lovely fruit forward cherry aromas. Delicious juicy spicy dark cherry fruit flavors in harmony with oak and perfectly balanced with medium acidity, rounded tannins and a long finish. An irresistible and attractive wine that might well be our favorite, but as with children you really shouldn’t show favorites.

ARGENTINE SELECTIONS

Led by a group of highly dedicated producers, Argentina has been producing wines of exceptional quality and value. In Report #5 Argentina’s Magnificent Malbec and in follow-up Featured Monthly Tastings, the International Wine Review has noted that Argentina can lay claim to producing some of the best wine values and best quality wines in the New World. The producers featured in this month’s tasting--Doña Paula and Bodegas Salentein--are notable for producing stylish wines of quality and value at both the entry and fine wine price points.

Doña Paula

Doña PaulaDoña Paula belongs to the Claro Group, a Chilean investment company which also owns other notable Chilean wineries such as Viña Santa Rita, Viña Carmen, Sur Andino and Los Vascos, a joint venture with the Baron Eric de Rothschild of France. The Viña Paula sources its grapes from high altitude vineyards in Ugarteche, Lujan de Cuyo. Doña Paula Los Cardos is their high quality entry level label.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

Doña Paula 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($16) 90

Youthful saturated dark ruby. Sweet and high toned black fruit and smoky oak aromas. Soft attack of pure ripe black currants and cassis. Concentrated and mouthfilling fruit on the palate with beautiful balance, velvety tannins and a long finish. A delicious wine.

Dona Paula 2007 Chardonnay Mendoza ($16) 86

Lemon gold. Ripe banana and leesy aromas. Very soft attack. Aromas carry over to the palate. Very ripe fruit flavors of banana and tropical fruits. Fairly short finish.

Doña Paula 2006 Merlot Mendoza ($16) 86

Saturated ruby. Pure ripe plum and toast on the nose. Somewhat tart on the attack and dry on the mid-palate with moderate red fruit flavors and youthful chewy tannins.

Doña Paula 2006 Shiraz-Malbec Mendoza ($16) 90

Saturated dark ruby. Fruit forward in character. A blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Malbec, It reveals ripe and juicy black fruit aromas with nicely integrated cedar notes. Soft, sweet and lush on the palate, it offers rich and juicy cassis fruit flavors, plum and chocolate notes. A wine that would stand well with food, but would be enjoyable to drink on its own and savor all the nuanced flavors. Lovely balance and a long lasting finish.

Doña Paula 2007 Estate Malbec Mendoza ($16) 88

Deep ruby. Attractive blue fruit aromas on the nose followed by pure supple spicy fruit and toasted oak flavors on the palate. Nicely balanced and integrated with good acidity and round tannins on the finish. Consistently good from year to year.

Doña Paula Los Cardos

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($10) 87

Medium lemon. Gardenia floral and pungent fruit aromas. Fruit rich attack. Ripe and round on the mouth with floral and grapefruit character. Finishes fairly light. Lacks the crispness and acidity one often expects from this varietal.

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Chardonnay Mendoza ($10) 87

Medium green gold. Citrus aromas of lemon and lees. Fairly crisp attack with bright citrus flavors on the palate. Good acidity. Firm finish

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($10) 87

Deep ruby. Lovely black currant fruit aromas on the nose followed by youthful ripe mouth filling black spicy fruit flavors on the palate. Nicely balanced with good acidity, soft round tannins and a firm finish. Delicious and easy drinking.

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Malbec Mendoza ($10) 85

Deep ruby. Black peppery aromas. A soft attack with lingering flavors of black currant and wood spice. Good acidity. Uncomplicated and easy drinking.

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Merlot Mendoza ($10) 87

Medium ruby. Youthful spicy plum aromas. Soft mouthfilling red fruit on the palate with nicely integrated notes of cedar. Well balanced and tasty with a pleasant lingering finish.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc.

Doña Paula 2006 Los Cardos Syrah Mendoza ($10) 86

Dark ruby. Blackberry fruit and earthy aromas. Soft attack of juicy ripe black fruit flavors and some spicy black pepper notes. Good acidity and balance with soft tannins and a firm lasting finish.

Bodegas Salentein

Bodegas SalenteinBodegas Salentein located in the Valle de Uco is producing some of the finest wines in Argentina today. Its owner, Dutch entrepreneur Mijndert Pon has spared no expense in acquiring first class vineyards and building a state of the art winery on a grand scale. Wine making is directed by the talented Laureano Gomez who in the start up of operations was assisted by consultant, Michel Rolland. Finca El Portillo is the entry-level label of Bodegas Salentein and offers some real bargains.

Importer: Palm Bay International, Port Washington, NY

Salentein 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Mendoza ($20) 91

Dark ruby. Fragrant ripe black currant and cassis aromas on the nose with lots of cedar notes and a touch of black pepper. Soft and lush texture on the attack, followed by mouthfilling black fruit. Beautifully balanced and juicy with depth. Round tannins and a firm finish.

Salentein 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($20) 88

Dark ruby. Aromas of red and black fruit, earth and black pepper on the nose. Soft attack with a silky texture on the palate with flavors black currant, red berries and roasted meat. Nicely balanced with found tannins and a firm finish.

Salentein 2003 Merlot Mendoza ($20) 89

Medium ruby in color, sweet aromas of plum and toasty oak. On the attack it displays ripe concentrated plum fruit, wood spice, vanillan highlights and round tannins on the finish.

Salentein 2003 Pinot Noir Mendoza ($20) 88

The 2003 Pinot Noir displays a lovely dark ruby color and aromas of brambly black cherry fruit, spice and toasted oak. It exhibits a soft attack with ripe spicy fruit on the palate. good acidity and balance, and rounded tannins with a firm finish. This Pinot is reminiscent of Oregon Pinot.

Finca El Portillo

El Portillo 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($11) 87

Medium-dark ruby. Ripe and spicy black currant and red fruit aromas with notes of black pepper. Soft attack with black fruit and toasted oak flavors on the palate. Juicy with good flavor. Easy drinking.

El Portillo 2007 Chardonnay Mendoza ($) 88

Medium straw. Nice lemon curd and leesy aromas. Soft attack. Round full mouth feel. Lemon citrus flavors. Good long finish.

El Portillo 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($11) 86

Lovely deep ruby. Attractive aromas of black cherry fruit with notes of black pepper. Soft on the palate offering light black fruit flavors, round tannins and a firm finish. Easy drinking.

El Portillo 2006 Merlot Mendoza ($11) 88

Deep ruby. Ripe black cherry fruit aromas with a touch of anise and minerals. Soft on the attack with lush mouth filling red fruit on the palate and nicely integrated oak. Good balance, soft tannins and a nice finish. A bargain.

El Portillo 2006 Pinot Noir Mendoza ($11) 85

Bright medium ruby. Aromas of brambly cherry with light red berry fruit flavors on the palate. High acidity, dusty tannins. Easy drinking.

El Portillo 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($11) 88

Medium lemon with slight green tinge. Very aromatic bouquet of white melon and red grapefruit. Ripe and round mouth feel. Rich fruit flavors on a mouthfilling palate. Persistent lemon citrus finish. Good acidity.


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