Future Reports

The Wines of Friuli: Collio's Elegant Whites

Special Monthly Tastings

New Vintages and New Releases
from California, Spain and Portugal

July 2007

CALIFORNIA

Sonoma Coast Vineyards

We recently had the opportunity to taste the wines produced by Sonoma Coast Vineyards, a small winery tucked away in the northwest corner of the Sonoma American Viticultural Area (AVA) known as the Extreme Sonoma Coast. Situated just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, this AVA has an unusually cool climate and long growing season. Founded in 2002 by John and Barbara Drady, Sonoma Coast Vineyards has been making excellent wines under the direction of winemaker, Anthony Austin, formerly of Simi Vineyards.

Distributors:  Wilson Daniels (St. Helena, CA) www.wilsondaniels.com and Nice Legs (Sterling, VA) www.nicelegs.biz

Sonoma Coast 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($38) 88

This single-vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from the Hummingbird Hill Vineyard is pale lemon in color with attractive aromas of tropical fruit. On the palate, it reveals minerality with high acidity and moderate crispness.  About 35 percent of the wine is fermented and aged in French oak and the rest is cold-fermented in stainless steel. This Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect food wine. The i-WineReview Tasting Panel tried it with a delicate salmon mousse …heavenly. 

Sonoma Coast 2004 Chardonnay ($50) 93

This is an impressive and complex Burgundian-style Chardonnay that tastes like a first-class Meursault. It displays a lovely yellow-gold color and offers aromas of sweet tropical fruit and pear with hints of brioche. Barrel-fermented in 50 percent new French oak with 12 months sur lies, this bottling reveals a rich texture of ripe fruit with just the right amount of acidity and oak in harmony. You couldn’t ask for a more delicious cool climate Chardonnay.

Sonoma Coast 2004 Pinot Noir ($60) 91
Sonoma Coast 2003 Pinot Noir ($60) 90
Sonoma Coast 2002 Pinot Noir ($60) 91
Sonoma Coast 2004 Pinot Noir Balistreri Family Vineyard-Freestone View Block ($100) 91

Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir LabelSonoma Coast’s Pinot Noirs are delicious aromatic and fruit-forward wines that display purity of fruit with moderate to high acidity and excellent structure on the palate. They are vinified with 25 to 30 percent whole clusters and spend 19 to 22 months in new and used barrels and 10 months in bottle before release. The 2004 Pinot Noir is dark ruby in color and very ripe from a warm growing season. It has a raspberry, pomegranate and blueberry kirsch-like fruitiness with a velvety palate and a round rich mouth feel, good overall balance and ripe tannins on the finish. The 2003 Pinot Noir is also ripe and fruit-forward but reveals a slightly herbal character with chunky tannins. The 2002 Pinot Noir, our favorite of the three, is the most Burgundian in character. It is light brick ruby in color and reveals ripe cherry fruit with bright acidity, good overall balance and a lingering finish. Very elegant. The 2004 Pinot Noir Balistreri Family Vineyard is leaner in style than the other Pinots and exhibits lovely pure ripe fruit with high acidity and rich raspberry and red berry flavors. Only recently released, it needs more time in the bottle to show all of its virtues, which may win it a higher future rating.

Sonoma Coast 2003 Syrah ($30) 89

This dark ruby Syrah displays aromas of smoky blackberry and blueberry fruit. It is soft and round in the mouth with clean fruit flavors, excellent balance and moderate acidity. It has terrific mouth feel, good tannic grip and a long finish.

(For an in-depth look at Syrah, see i-WineReview’s Issue 4, Syrah: California and the Northwest-Red, Hot and Cool)

SPAIN

Spain is producing some of the best wine values in the world today and exporting wines from many regions. Quality Wines of Spain, a new Spanish wine importer in New York, specializes in locating high-quality Spanish wine values from growing areas such as Campo de Borja, Madrid, Montsant, Penedès, Priorat and other regions and provided many of the wines tasted this month. J. Cambier Imports of Great Falls, Virginia, a specialty importer of fine wines from small growers in Spain, Portugal, France and other regions, also provided an introduction to some of the new Spanish offerings heading our way.

Campo de Borja

Santo Cristo 2006 Chardonnay Macabeo Campo de Borja ($9) 88

The Bodegas Santo Cristo cooperative makes this wine from 80 percent Macabeo and 20 percent Chardonnay. The wine is pale yellow in color with a broad ripe nose of spicy apple and jicama and an interesting, somewhat complex palate. Terrific value.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Santo Cristo 2006 Marques de Reala Grenache Campo de Borja ($9) 87

Made from 80 percent Grenache and 20 percent Tempranillo, this wine has a medium ruby color with fresh red berry fruit on the nose. It shows a nice, soft attack in a fresh, fruit-forward style with good inner mouth perfume and a good dose of cracked black pepper on the palate.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Santo Cristo 2006 Marques de Reala Rosé Campo de Borja ($9) 87

This 100 percent Grenache-based rosé has a brilliant currant red color. It reveals ripe strawberry fruit on the nose and a creamy mouth feel with ripe strawberry flavors. A straightforward, well-made wine.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Santo Cristo 2004 Penazuela Old Vines Garnacha Campo de Borja ($30) 87

Bright medium ruby in color with restrained aromatics. Blackcurrant and black raspberry flavors dominate the palate. Dry and slightly astringent on the finish. Produced by the Bodegas Santo Cristo and aged 10 months in 90 percent French and 10 percent American oak.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Quo Campo de Borja LabelSanto Cristo 2005 Quo Campo de Borja ($16) 88

Another Bodegas Santo Cristo wine, this one made from 100 percent Grenache and aged four months in 20 percent American and 80 percent French oak barrels. Dark ruby color with sandalwood, new leather, and red berry fruit on nose. The attack is soft with a ripe, lush mouth feel and mellow, brown spice notes.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Madrid

Merum Label Merum 2005 Merum Madrid ($16) 92

A superb wine made from predominantly (85 percent) Grenache from 60 plus-year-old vines, blended with 15 percent Syrah. Merum is ruby garnet in color with an earthy, Chateauneuf du Pape -type nose. It shows Grenache typicity in a bouquet of red currants and pepper, It also has a soft, velvety mouth feel with nice complexity and very ripe tannins.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Montsant

Vinyes Domènech 2004 Furvus Montsant ($40) 93

Dark ruby color with leather, anise and caramel aromas. Loam, mushroom and rich, ripe dark fruit on the palate. Persistent finish with ripe tannins. A complete wine. Not an off note in it. 

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Vinyes Domènech 2004 Teixar Montsant ($80) 89

Medium ruby garnet. Reticent nose with notes of leather. Dense, chewy palate of roasted meats, dark fruits and vanilla bean. Somewhat astringent on the finish.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Navarra

Camino Real 2003 Oreades Navarra ($9) 86

This is a medium ruby-colored wine with amber on the rim. Notes of leather and earth dominate the nose despite the modest oak treatment (40 percent of the wine is matured in oak for six months). It has a foreshortened palate of leather and red currant.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Penèdes

Covides 0 Gran Gesta Brut Rosé Cava Penèdes ($17) 89

This fresh fruit cava made from 100 percent Trepat grapes spends one year on the lees. Medium strawberry in color, vibrant berry fruit reveals itself on the nose and the palate with a crisp finish.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain, (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Antonio Mascaro Rubor Aurorae Cava Brut Rosé Penèdes ($22) 90

Light strawberry in color with a nose of freshly baked bread. This impressive Champagne-style cava is 100 percent Monastrell and spends two years on the lees and exhibits a creamy mousse with an effervescent palate of clean, fresh fruit and a slightly sweet finish.

Importer:  J. Cambier Imports (Great Falls, VA) www.jcambierimports.com

Priorat

Escoda Muero 2004 Isaral Priorat ($44) 87

Made from 60 percent Carignan, 20 percent Grenache and 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the village of La Vilella Alta and matured 12 months in 80 percent French and 20 percent American oak. Isaral is starbright ruby in color with a rich ripe earthy nose of vanilla bean and grilled meat. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, showing light fruit palate with heavy wood notes. Not as good as the 2003 vintage, which we reviewed in our April’s Featured Tastings report. 

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain, (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Ferrer Lerin 2005 Mas Dels Frares Priorat ($18) 89

A product of the Ferrer Lerin winery, this wine of 50 percent Carignan, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent Grenache is ruby garnet in color with blackcurrant and earth notes on the nose. It is medium bodied with a soft attack, velvety mouth feel, pepper and earth notes on the palate, and a slightly dry and astringent finish.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Rías Baixas

Orballo Label La Val 2006 Orballo Rías Baixas ($20) 89

Made by the La Val winery in the Denominación de Origen (DO) of Rías Baixas DO, the Orballo shows a star-bright lemon yellow color with citrus and minty hay on the nose. It has medium body and acidity with ripe, vibrant fruit on the palate and a flavorful finish. 

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Rueda

Agricola Castellana 2006 Cuatro Rayas Rueda ($14) 89

Pale lemon color with a green tinge, this 100 percent Verdejo made from mostly ungrafted 25 plus-year-old vines has a fresh, floral bouquet with slight nutty accent. Flavors are clean with good minerality on the palate. Finishes dry with nice acidity. 

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Agricola Castellana 2006 Pampano Rueda ($10) 88

The 2006 Pampano is a blend of 60 percent Verdejo and 40 percent Viura and displays green apple, pear and mineral notes with a touch of passion fruit. On the palate, it exhibits lots of acidity and a crisp mouth feel  making it a lovely wine for all kinds of fresh seafood.  Offered at a terrific price.  

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Viña Sanzo  NV Rueda Verdejo Rueda ($10) 90

Pale lemon-green in color, this 100 percent Verdejo gives off fresh hay, hazelnut and kiwi aromas. It’s round, ripe and full in the mouth, exhibiting a passion fruit tropicality with nice mineral notes and a very dry finish.

Importer: J. Cambier Imports (Great Falls, VA) www.jcambierimports.com

Toro

Tardencuba 2004 Roble Toro ($17) 85

Opaque garnet color. Shows some volatility on the nose, but has a soft, velvety mouth feel. Caramel and roasted meat flavors emerge on the palate, finishing with some bitterness. 

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Valpiculata LabelValpiculata 2004 Puertas Novas Toro ($20) 88

This 100 percent Tempranillo wine is the product of 40 plus-year-old vines and is aged 12 months in French oak. It shows medium garnet color with leather and dark fruit on nose. Red and black fruit with spicy wood notes dominate the palate, with notes of woody mushrooms. Somewhat drying tannins provide the finish.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain (New York, NY) www.qualitywinesofspain.com

Zamora

Viña Escuderos 2006 Gavion Zamora ($14) 87

Cold macerated from 90 percent Verdejo and 10 percent small grape Muscat, this clean, crisp wine is green-gold in color with somewhat spritzy notes. It reveals passion fruit, mango aromas, exhibits a straightforward varietal character and finishes slightly bitter.

Importer: J. Cambier Imports (Great Falls, VA) www.jcambierimports.com

Bodega Juan Ramirez 2006 Juan Ramirez Actino Valdepeñas ($7) 86

The Actino has a pleasant straw-gold color and ripe melon nose. It’s full and ripe in the mouth with modest fruit and finishes rather short without a lot of varietal character.

Importer: J. Cambier Imports (Great Falls, VA) www.jcambierimports.com

PORTUGAL

Casa de Santar Label Casa de Santar 2004 Reserva Dão ($NA) 88

Casa de Santar is the largest private estate in the Dão region with more than 120 hectares of vineyards and a large modern winery. The 2004 Reserva has a dark ruby color with aromas of black cherry and leather. It has a soft velvety attack with delicious ripe red and black fruit and a light finish. This bottling is even better than the previously tasted Reserva from the good 2001 vintage.

Importer: Aidil Wines and Liquors (Newark, NJ) www.aidilwines.com

Herdade do Esporão 2004 Reserva Alentejo ($19) 92

The 2004 Reserva displays a dark ruby opaque core with aromas of smoky ripe black cherry, black raspberry and violets. On the attack and the palate, it is soft round and velvety with excellent balance, wood spice and a long-lasting finish. This wine is undoubtedly the best Esporão Reserva we have tasted over several recent vintages. It is also offered at an attractive price.

Importer: Aidil Wines and Liquors (Newark, NJ) www.aidilwines.com

Muxagat Vinhos 2004 Muxagat Douro Vinho Tinto Douro ($19) 89

The 2004 Muxagat Douro -- a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Cão -- has a purple opaque core with a port-like nose of aromatic red and black cherry fruit with notes of chocolate, loam, white ash, stems and toasted oak. On the palate, it displays a velvety mouth feel of nicely concentrated fruit with good acidity and balance and grip on the finish.

Importer: Aidil Wines and Liquors (Newark, NJ) www.aidilwines.com

Sociedade Agrícola Monte dos Outeiros 2005 Dom Januario Branco Alentejo ($14) 87

This blend of Antão Vaz and Arinto gives off a golden color with an amber tinge and shows ripe fruit aromas with a hint of almonds. Stone fruit flavors dominate on the palate, which is nicely balanced with a good finish.

Importer:  J. Cambier Imports (Great Falls, VA) www.jcambierimports.com

Reviews by Michael Flynn, Donald Winkler and Mike Potashnik, Ph.D.