De Martino and Sadie Family: Old Vine Cinsault from Two Outstanding Winemakers in Chile and South Africa

img_8738In preparing our Chile and South Africa reports over the years, we’ve been privileged to meet and taste with Marcelo Retamal of Chile’s De Martino Winery and Eben Sadie of South Africa’s Sadie Family Winery. These outstanding winemakers seek out the best terroir and the oldest, dry farmed bush vines and make their wines naturally, using native yeast, often fermenting and aging in cement and amphorae, and adding minimal amounts of SO2. Marcelo sources his fruit from the Western Hemisphere’s oldest vineyards in Itata and some of the highest altitude ones in the upper Elqui Valley in the Andes. Eben has worked with South Africa’s preeminent viticulturist, Rosa Kruger, to identify that country’s oldest vineyards in the Swartland, Olifants River, and Piekenierskloof regions. [See our video interview with Rosa Kruger on the International Wine Review channel on You Tube.] Continue reading

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Dutton Goldfield: Outstanding 2014 Releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma County

art-dutton-logoThe year 2014 was a rich, ripe vintage in Sonoma County, resulting in some absolutely outstanding wines like the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs we recently tasted from Dutton Goldfield. The highly successful Dutton Goldfield winery is the product of a partnership between Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield that was launched with a handshake in 1998. Located in Russian River Valley, Dutton Goldfield sources grapes from several vineyards throughout western Sonoma County. It produces outstanding vineyard-designated Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs mainly from the Russian River and Green Valleys. The bottlings from Dutton Ranch are among their best. Steve spends most of his time in the vineyard, and Dan spends his time in the cellar. The tasting room is located just outside Sebastopol, and that’s where we tasted the wines for our earlier report on The Wines of Sonoma County. Continue reading

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The Farm Winery: 2013-14 New Releases from Paso Robles

the-farm-wineryThese six new 2013 and 2014  releases from The Farm Winery in Paso Robles are terrific.  We are enthusiastic about them because they reveal outstanding vineyard management and restrained winemaking.   As a group these wines offer fruit forward purity, a silky texture and excellent balance. They are also round and mouth filling with good density and just the right amount of ripeness.  Oak-aging is relatively long but is well-done thanks to  the employment of used oak barrels and puncheons. Continue reading

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Holiday Toasts: Sparkling Rosés from Champagne and America

SPRK RoseChampagne and sparkling wines are festive by nature and perfect for holiday toasts. Lively and effervescent, they literally “sparkle”. Rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines are especially festive. They not only have bubbles; many have a touch more fruity sweetness and creamy texture than other sparklers. They are the perfect drink to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. With this in mind, we give our reviews of some rosé Champagnes we recently tasted. We also include our reviews of some of our favorite rosé sparkling wines from California and Oregon that we tasted for our report on North American Sparkling Wines as well as an interesting sparkling rosé from Chile made with the país (mission) grape that we feature in our upcoming report on Chile. Prices, when given, are approximate. Continue reading

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A Magnificent Wine Dinner for the Holidays by Two Outstanding Chefs

dris-and-domenicoTwo outstanding chefs, Domenico Cornacchia of Assaggi Osteria (right) and Driss Zahidi of Evo Bistro (left)  joined forces last evening preparing a magnificent holiday dinner for their customers.  The dinner was held at Assaggi Osteria in McLean, VA.  Continue reading

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New Releases from David Ramey’s Sidebar Cellars

sidebarSidebar Cellars is a new venture by David Ramey, one of California’s finest winemakers.  Ramey Wine Cellars is best known for its outstanding  hand-crafted  premium wines (Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah).  These wines are in the medium-price range and consist of diverse varieties:  two Sauvignon Blancs, a Syrah rosé, a Kerner, and two red blends, one a Zinfandel-based field blend, the other a Rhone-style blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah. These wines are all well-made, as one would expect from David Ramey, and primarily sourced from high-altitude and densely planted vineyards.  They are fresh and fruit forward, mouth filling,  California in style, and fun to drink.  We recommend them to our readers. Continue reading

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Stunning New Releases from Sicily’s Passopisciaro

Andrea Franchetti at Passopisciaro

Andrea Franchetti at Passopisciaro

Located on the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna, Passopisciaro is an ancient vineyard which produces some of Sicily’s finest wines.   It is owned by Andrea Franchetti, who pioneered the development of wine on Mt. Etna at the turn of the century.  His high altitude estate consists of  distinct terraces of volcanic soils planted with indigenous grape varieties of late-ripening Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio,  He follows organic viticultural practices with no herbicides or fertilizers. Continue reading

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Gary Farrell Winery: More New 2014 Releases: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel

GFW_CREST_HIRES__2_This is the second installment of our reviews of Gary Farrell’s new 2014 releases of single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and two single vineyard Zinfandels.  Readers who missed the previous reviews can find them here.  The wines reviewed here are mainly from the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and the Far Sonoma Coast.   They are more stunning examples of the very high quality of single vineyard winemaking  taking place in Sonoma County these days. Continue reading

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Major New Releases from California’s Blue Rock Vineyard 2012-2014

blue-rockOver the years we have observed enthusiastically  the steady development of this small winery in Alexander Valley.   Under the guidance of its founder and owner, Kenny Kahn, Blue Rock Vineyard has gone from strength to strength and today is among the finest artisanal wineries in the valley.    Beginning with its first commercial vintage in 1999 Blue Rock has shown steady improvements in the crafting of high quality estate-bottled premium Bordeaux varieties and Syrah from its 46-acre hillside vineyards.

This year Blue Rock celebrates the release of three new wines,  two stunning white wines, Baby Blue White, a fragrant and delicious Bordeaux blend, a rich barrel-fermented Chardonnay, Burgundian in character,  and a cool climate Pinot Noir.   The grapes for these wines are sourced from some of Sonoma County’s finest coastal vineyards, such as Sangiacomo.   Kent Humphry,  a new winemaker with winemaking experience in Burgundy, has joined Blue Rock’s winemaking team to produce these new wines.   He joins Miro Tcholakov who craft’s Blue Rock’s red wines.  Miro also makes the wine for Trentadue and his own label.

Blue Rock produces 5,000 to 6,000 cases annually which are distributed in 22 U.S. markets and abroad.  In view of the small quantities, these wines sell out quickly. If readers can’t find them at their local wine shop, they can buy them directly from the winery

Wine Reviews

Blue Rock 2014 Baby Blue Sonoma County ($28) 91   The 2014 Baby Blue is an attractive blend of five Bordeaux varietals and Syrah. It offers rich spicy aromas of red and black fruit and pure ripe concentrated fruit flavors on the palate with a touch of earthiness. It has a lovely texture, excellent balance and acidity, ripe round tannins and a long finish. This is the eighth vintage of this wine and it is showing better than ever, probably  due  in large measure, to the maturity of the vines.
Blue Rock 2015 Baby Blue Blanc Sonoma Coast ($24) 90+   The Baby Blue Blanc, a new release, is a fragrant Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon with a touch of Viognier. It reveals appealing flavors of apple, stone fruit and herbs with good ripeness and acidity. It has a light creamy mouth feel, purity of flavor and a long finish.  Very nice, but more acidity might make it even better.  

Blue Rock 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ” Best Barrels” Alexander Valley ($70) 93+  The Cabernet Sauvignon “Best Barrels” is sourced from Blue Rock’s oldest vines planted in 1987. It is an attractive wine displaying aromas of black currants and sweet French oak.  It is elegant and refined on the palate with a silky texture, rich concentrated fruit and soft round tannins. A wine ready to drink now but has good aging potential of up to 10 years.  Only 380 cases produced.

Blue Rock 2014 Chardonnay Alexander Valley ($48) 92   The 2014 Chardonnay, another new release, is a barrl-fermented blend of grapes from two of the outstanding Sangiacomo vineyards in Los Carneros and the Petaluma Gap, and the Stiling Vineyard in Russian River Valley.  It is a gorgeous wine with rich tropical and stone fruit flavors and rich toasted oak. It is beautifully balanced and elegant on the palate, with a lovely finish. A terrific first Chardonnay release for Blue Rock.   Only 97 cases produced.

Blue Rock 2014 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($60) 90   This is Blue Rock’s first release of a cool climate Pinot Noir and it is a very good one. Crafted by winemaker, Kent Humphry, it is a blend of grapes from Freestone and Russian River Valley.  Aged 14 months in barrel, it is ripe and mouth filling in style with dark cherry flavors and hints of light toast. It has good acidity and balance, nice purity and a persistent finish.  97 cases produced.

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Zenato Wine Dinner at Assaggi Osteria

img_1962Last evening we participated in a magnificent wine dinner with Zenato wines at Assaggi  Osteria  in McLean, Va.   Zenato is one of Italy’s finest Amarone producers and one which we highly rated in our Report #41 The Amarones of Valpolicella.  The dinner was attended by wine enthusiasts of Northern VA and Christian Comito, Italian Portfolio Specialist, The Winebow Group, Zenato’s importer.  Pictured here with Christian Comito is  Assaggi Osteria’s talented chef/proprietor, Domenico Cornacchia and chef/proprietor Driss Zaidi of EVO Bistro in McLean.

squareZenato is a family estate founded in 1960 by Sergio Zenato.  His children Alberto and Nadia have managed the estate since his death in 2008.  While it started as a negociant winery, it now has its own vineyards for producing Amarone in Sant’ Ambrogio.   In our reviews of Zenato wines in Report #41, we were impressed with their power, richness and elegance and our wine dinner at Assaggi more than confirmed our previous assessment. Continue reading

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