Monthly Archives: March 2010
These days, with so many wine makers trying to differentiate themselves, the Monticelli Brothers are no exception…or are they? Mario and Massimo Monticelli have done something that bends the rules – that extend past the guidelines of traditional wine making. Their non-vintage blend encompasses three years of harvest and can be described as Bordeaux meets Chianti in a bottle. This blend was named after their great uncle Rolando, who taught them the Italian art of blending multiple vintages. With uncle Rolando’s help and a unconventional combination of Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese, they created a California wine like no other. The Rolando Rosso holds the smooth maturity of an older vintage, and the fruit of youth. This wine is a blend of 50% grapes from 2000, 25% from 2001 and 25% from 2002. The Monticelli Brothers settled on a medley of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Sangiovese, 5% Cab Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, making it both complex and one of a kind. Because of their originality and ability to carry over at least 50% of the same grapes from the previous production, you will find each new release more consistent, year after year, then a single vintage blend.
Monticelli Brothers Rolando Rosso, Napa Valley – $36
In the current economy there are deals everywhere, even in the wine world. But France, the one region in the world where the deals are sparse, value is hard to be found. Blame it on the declining dollar (although the Euro is starting to take a fall), pretentiousness, or just the fact that the French make damn good wine. So it has become my quest to find a value in France.
Situated in the southeast corner of France, just north of Provence and just south of Burgundy, lies the Rhone Valley. The Valley runs along the course of the Rhone River providing beautiful views and scenery. The Valley is divided into two distinct growing environments heavy with their own micro-climates and traditions in winemaking.
The Northern Rhone
The Northern part of the valley is characteristized by a continental climate experiencing cold winters and warm summers, much cooler than its southern neighbor. The cool climate lends itself to grapes that survive and flourish better in these conditions. The only red varietal permitted to be grown in the Northern Rhone is Syrah. As for white varieties, wines can include Viognier, Marsanne, or Rousanne. The Northern Rhone produces unique red wines in which the red grape (Syrah) is often blended with the white varieties of the region. Produced in the same manner as most French wines, Northern Rhones are terrior driven meaning they are made to showcase the land that the grapes were grown on. The Syrahs of the region are much different from the sister Shirazs produced in Australia, these wines display strong characteristics of earth, green vegetables, and often bacon.
As with all French appellations, the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) designates which grapes can be grown in the area in order to obtain a certification to be sold under the appellation name. All French AOC wines are named for the region they are grown in, rather than the grapes themselves. Within the Northern Rhone, the AOC designates eight different sub-appellations and therefore eight distinct wines. The sub-appellations (and the grapes in those wines) are:
Cote-Rotie: Red – Syrah and up to 20% Vigonier
Condrieu: White – Viognier
Chateau-Grillet: White – Viognier
Saint-Joseph: Red – Syrah and up to 10% Marsanne or Rousanne; White – Marsanne or Rousanne
Crozes-Hermitage: Red – Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne or Rousanne; White – Marsanne or Rousanne
Hermitage: Red – Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne or Rousanne; White – Marsanne or Rousanne
Cornas: Red – Syrah
Saint-Peray: Sparkling – Marsanne or Rousanne
With a dominant mediterranean climate, the Southern Rhone experiences mild winters and hot summers. The region often endures drought conditions but very cool nights. Much of the southern valley is divided into even smaller microclimates due to the rough, almost pebble like soil in some areas in addition to the strong, dry wind that may affect some areas and not others.
The diverse climate in the southern Rhone allows many different varieties of grapes to thrive in the environment. The most common red grapes produced in the region are Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Carignan, and Cinsualt. White varieties include Ugni Blanc, Rousanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc,Picpoul, Clairette, and Vigonier. The different climates also produce distinct flavors in the wines. Reds from the left side of the valley are typical to display flavors and aromas of chocolate and rich black fruit with heavy tannins in youth; while right side wines are much lighter, and fruit forward.
In all, there are ten sub-appellations of the Rhone. However the two most recognizable and famous of the regions are Chateaneuf de Pape and Cote du Rhone.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, roughly “The Pope’s New Castle” in French, can be made in a white, rose, or red from up to eighteen different varietals as of this past year. Red varities include Cinsaut, Counoise, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul Noir, Syrah, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté); white and pink which are allowed are Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Clairette Rose, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Picardan, Piquepoul Blanc, Piquepoul Gris, and Roussanne. There are no specifications on the percentages that must be used, so it is possible to have a Châteauneuf-du-Pape with all eighteen varieties, however Grenache is usually the dominant grape in this wine. The reds from this area are characterized as strongly tannic in their youth developing into spicy, full-bodied, dark fruit wines. Whites range in flavor and aroma from lean and crisp to strong, silky and heavy.
By definition a wine from Cote du Rhone has no specific sub-appellation thus can be made from any grapes within both the northern or southern regions. In actuality, most Cote du Rhones are a blend of grapes from the southern region dominated by Grenache on the red side and Grenache blanc on the whites
Discovering the Rhone
Here are some suggestions to get your travels started to this Southern French region.Whites
Ferraton Pere & Fils Cotes du Rhone Samorens Blanc
Flavor : nicely balance wine. Clairette brings the freshness and white Grenache body and softness
Grape : White Grenache (50%) and Clairette (40%)
Ferraton Pere & Fils Crozes-Hermitage La Matiniere
Flavor : very aromatic attack, aromas of ripe fruit (cherries, raspberries). Round wine with smooth tannins
$19.50Domaine Monpertuis Cote du Rhone
Flavor: Dark purple, spicy, dense, and strong.
Grape: Grenache (90%), Syrah (10%)
Domaine Monpertuis Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Flavor: Mineral and earth aroma that lingers on the aftertaste with ripe fruit and faded flower notes.
Grape: Grenache (70%), remainder from Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and other varieties.
The return of blue skies and sunshine means dusting off the grill for a backyard BBQ. And with Five Guys as our neighbors, more often than not we see people looking to pair wine with their burger and fries. This conjures up images of that scene from Sideways where Paul Giamatti is sitting in the burger joint with his 1961 Cheval Blanc, wolfing down a juicy cheeseburger. Obviously that is not what we are suggesting, but we would like to share with you some pairings should you choose to enjoy with either a Five Guys burger or simply throwing some patties on the grill to share with family and friends at home.
The perception has always been beer with burgers, but with gourmet foodies have been changing the image of the burger as we know it. Think – bleu cheese & bacon, green chili & swiss, olives & feta, caramelized onion, mushroom stuffed, lemon & garlic Aioli with avocado, sweet potato fries, etc. With a multitude of flavors and a solid backing of red meat, why not pair with your favorite Cabernet, Zinfandel or Merlot?
Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – $30
Pair this one with your heartiest burger – chili burger with a heavy dose of sharp cheddar cheese, Southern style BBQ sauce with caramelized onions, or splurge with a topping of sliced foie gras and truffles.
Duckhorn Merlot 2006 – $40
The blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot make this a complex, elegant wine with intense fruits and soft tannins. Pair this with a lightly topped burger, perhaps with just a sampling of some good cheese – try mild cheeses like Brie or goat cheese.
Don’t eat red meat? Try:
Van Duzer Pinot Noir Rose – $15
This dry style, fruit forward rose will pair perfectly with a chicken or ground turkey burger. Top your chicken burger with whole green chilis, Southwestern style Thousand Island, swiss cheese and guacamole. With your ground turkey try a cranberry chutney with Gorgonzola.
For more burger ideas, check out Saveur.com or just click on the link below
With the increasing popularity of wine over the last twenty years or so we’ve seen prices rising and rising and rising. Wineries have responded to buying anxiety by reducing the case size of wine from twelve to six to even three and four in some cases. The question is as a wine buyer does this reduce my anxiety? Well, yes for that brief millisecond when I see the ‘case’ price…but I’m immediately brought back to reality when I see in big bold letters ‘4 PK.’
In the newest issue of Wine Spectator, James Laube (one of the oldest contributors and my favorite) discusses the Ever Shrinking Case Size of wine. He explores that this shrinking case size is influencing consumer behavior and increasing reluctance t0 a case of wine. With the number of options in the wine world, it is hard to commit yourself to buy twelve bottles of the same wine. What if you don’t like it? Better question what if your wife/husband doesn’t like it? Al and I used to struggle with these questions before the opening of Decanted and still have an occasional dispute when we bring home our weekly case (yes, I said weekly) and he has it loaded up wine I’m not thrilled about.
But I’m under the belief that you really need to have four bottles of a particular wine in order to truly appreciate it and understand it. Does that mean you need four bottles of every wine you come across…no. I’m speaking specifically towards building a collection or appreciating a premium wine. One of the things I love about wine is its adaptability. Not only does it change over time, but it changes in regards to its place, company, and food pairings. There are so many factors that go into whether a wine is ‘good’ or not beyond just the grapes and winemaking process. I’ve had my recent favorite bottle of wine…Moschioni Rosso Celtico…twice now. I loved it once, but also loved the people I was drinking it with. The second time it didn’t taste as great…but the people weren’t exactly tons of fun either.
So here’s my case for the case…a top three of reasons why I still believe in buying by the dozen.
1. Um case discount? I may be frugal but I’m always looking for a discount. Best part about this is it allows me to buy wines that might have been out of my price range. For example, if my budget is $20 a bottle on average, a 10% discount allows me to increase that to $22…doesn’t sound like a lot, but it could be the difference between a good wine and a great wine.
2. How long will this bottle age? I get this question all the time, and to be honest I’m not sure. Neither is Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, or even the winery. Unfortunately there is no science to discovering the perfect maturity of a wine. It’s influenced by a number of different factors including transportation and storing conditions, bottling procedures, temperature and a whole lot of other stuff I don’t understand. So here’s our answer to that question and our case for at least four bottles of any wine you plan on cellaring. Open one bottle up five years after release…see how it is. Still tight? Age it for another five. Open it up and its perfect…great drink the other two bottles, if not cellar again and keep testing.
*Special Note* Do read up on the expected maturity of the wine first, certain wines age longer than others and you may need to adjust the above timeline. The winery the best resource, but if you can’t get an answer there – we like www.erobertparker.com.
3. Going Green. Is buying a case of wine vs. one bottle better for the environment? It might not seem to make a difference, but when you add up all the factors that go into that case…like driving to and from the wine store twelve times vs. one….I seem to think this might be an earth friendly approach for us winos. Would I like to see my customers smiling faces twelve times a month? Of course, but consolidating your trip not only saves gas and unfriendly emissions but helps me save on bags, paper, energy and lets me consolidate my orders passing those earth saving activities on to my suppliers.
So is this the demise of the case as James Laube predicts? I think not, I believe in the case and know it will rebound. If you are interested in Laube’s article, please click here or read it in the April issue of Wine Spectator (page 35).
If you are looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with your steak meal, look no further than Turn 4 by Bennett Lane. Bennett Lane is most known for their fantastic Cabs in the higher end price range (from $55-$95), but they have been able to produce this outstanding second label Cabernet for $25. It’s hard to believe that an excellent Napa Cab could be found for that price, but here it is. The 2007 is ready to drink now, just open it a few hours before your meal and let it breathe. Its rich dark fruits and balanced tannins make it a perfect pairing with red meat. We served the wine with thick strip steaks topped with sauteed onion and mushrooms, baked potato with the works, steamed broccoli and a summer salad of fresh cherry tomatoes, basil from the garden and fresh mozzarella. The wine complimented the entire meal and didn’t overpower any of the food.
This 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet is blended with 4% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec, giving it a beautiful complexity. It was aged in French Oak for 18 months and only 8,800 cases were produced.
Tasting Notes from the Winemaker
“This Napa Valley Cabernet opens with intense aromas of black fruit, bright cherry and minerals. Background notes of cedar, sage and violets add to the complexity of the wine. On the palate the wine has good weight, with flavors of dark cherry, cocoa, and plums. The tannins are velvety and approachable, leading to a long elegant, fruit driven finish.”
Lloyd Flatt had accumulated a distinguished collection of wine before his death in January 2008. He began collecting in the 1960’s and amassed over 15,000 bottles, a good number of them being first-growth Bordeaux.
A number of his wines were recently sold at auction at Sotheby’s New York at more than double the presale estimate. 1,500 bottles of Flatt’s wine sold for a total of $1.8 million, the highest bidder being a six-liter Methuselah of Romanee Conti 1976 which sold for $42,350.
Flatt was not afraid of uncorking a bottle of wine. He stressed that wine was a consumable product to be enjoyed and he was never shy about opening wine from his collection.
Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Who was that guy and why is it a major beer-drinking holiday celebrated with parades and shenanigans? Why do we wear green?
Well, we can look no further than the Irish, as St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day started as purely a Christian observance holiday, then was developed into a feast holiday, and today is celebrated by Irish descendants world-wide.
St. Patrick was born into a Roman-British family in the early 400’s AD with the birth name, Maewyn. He was given his Christian name of Patrick when he entered the priesthood later in life. He was captured by Irish raiders and taken into slavery at the age of 16. After six years he was able to escape and he fled to Gaul where he joined the Church and studied to be a priest. I suppose if one was held captive by the Irish for six years, one wouldn’t be too eager to return – however in 432 Patrick returned to Ireland as a bishop and spent 30 years teaching God’s word. During that time, St. Patrick was successful in converting a large number of Irish citizens to Christianity. The Irish were certainly thankful for Patrick’s forgiveness of their sins; in return they dubbed him a saint and declared March 17th an official holiday in remembrance.
Originally St. Patrick was associated with the color blue, however over the years the transition has been to green, mainly due to the shamrock. The wearing of the shamrock is a Christian tradition. It is said that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a teaching example to explain the Holy Trinity – the father, son and Holy Spirit. Today, whether Irish or not, green is a customary color worn, along with shamrock pins, beaded necklaces and Leprechaun hats.
Starting in the 1600’s, March 17th became a day that Irish Christians could take a break from fasting during the 40 days of lent. They were allowed one day to feast and drink alcohol. Over the centuries, the day has evolved to include parades, pub events and outrageous green attire. In 1931 the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Dublin. Today New York City hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world. Chicago even goes so far to dye the Chicago River green.
Green Beer and Irish Stout
Green beer is a popular drink on St. Patrick’s Day, a way to truly show your spirit. Many bars and pubs offer a special green beer on their menu during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. Often just a drop or two of food coloring in a light colored lager is all you need to add to festive touch to your beverage, but beware of green teeth if you have one too many!
A good Irish stout is another widely consumed beverage on March 17th. Dublin-brewed Guinness is by far the most popular and well known choice. Guinness is a “dry Irish stout,” but other types of stouts to sample include imperial stouts, sweet milk stouts, oatmeal stouts and a close cousin to the stout, the porter. Domestic company Lagunitas out of California brews a mean Cappuccino Stout. An imperial style stout, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout boasts 9.2% abv with dark malts, roasted barley and local coffee thrown in the mix.
If you want to really get festive, ask your friendly bartender to whip up an Irish Car Bomb. Half a pint of Guinness and a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream mixed with Jamison Irish Whisky. Simply drop the shot in the pint glass and chug. They are dangerously delicious, so make sure to pace yourself!
For too long now, Washington wines have existed under the shadow of their neighbors to the south, and living under the pretense that they could not, and would not stack up to the boisterousness and nobility of California wine. Washington has been prisoner to the understandable misconception that they simply do not host a suitable grape growing climate. How could they grow grapes, you may ask, when it rains all the time? In fact, the majority of Washington’s wine growing region lies to the east of the Cascade mountain range, which, due to the rain shadow effect is arid and sunny. While damp and temperate Western Washington gets an average of sixty inches of rain per year, the East Side receives eight.
It’s true that Washington was still making fortified wines based on Concord grapes in the 1960’s when California wines were already receiving awards and becoming world recognized. But they have grown with leaps and bounds over the past 40 years and are producing high quality wines that compete with the best of California. The wheat fields and fruit orchards that were the previous staple economy in Walla Walla and Yakima Valleys have been replaced with acres of lucrative vines, growing from just ten wineries in 1970, to over five hundred today.
The Washington wine industry is currently worth three billion dollars and is ranked second to California in grape growing and wine production. The 1980’s saw a huge demand for white wines and interest spiked for Rieslings and Chardonnays. Although the white wines are continuing to hold their popularity and prestige, Washington is now praised for its Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots as well.
One of the most notable and celebrated winemakers out of Walla Walla Valley is winemaker Charles Smith. This year will mark his tenth year. The retired rock band manager shifted gears when he taught himself the art of creating quality wines, starting with very small batches of Syrah. Don’t be fooled by the “wine label effect” and eye catching names, these are not mediocre wines with a cushy marketing budget. Inside the bottle are some of the most tremendous wines coming out of that region. These wines are not for the faint at heart. They are powerful, rock solid wine that pack a serious punch. With his wild thick hair, leather boots and a plain black t-shirt Smith looks like a cross between Jerry Garcia and a Harley Davidson poster child, and seems a little out of place in the perceived pretentiousness of the wine industry. His motorcycle riding, live on the edge, rock n roll personality shines through in all aspects of his winemaking, from labels to descriptions and within the wines themselves.
You can find Charles Smith’s wines, the signature black and white labels, under his self-titled Charles Smith label, K Vintners and The Magnificent Wine Company. K Vintners is his original production and consists mainly of 100% Syrah and Syrah blends. The value-based Magnificent Wine Company label revolves around House Red Wine and House White Wine; quality table wine blends from multiple vineyards and vintages. His most recent endeavor is his Charles Smith wines, where he has been continuing with his full bodied, “best wine possible” approach and branching out to Rieslings, Chardonnays and Merlots.
Listed below are just a few of the favorites.
Charles Smith Label
Inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill
Tasting Notes: THIS GIRL IS SERIOUS! Aromatic, smooth, vibrant and tasty. Think tangerine, apricot, wet stone, key lime, clove and nectarine….now stop thinking and start drinking… ‘CAUSE KUNG FU GIRL KICKS ASS! – Charles Smith
Tasting Notes: Sinfully tempting…fresh, crisp, the perfume of sweet apple blossoms lures you into The Garden of Eden. Silky, soft, mouth filling deliciousness…take the first sip! – Charles Smith
Tasting Notes: If velvet had a flavor this would be it. Bittersweet chocolate, dark Italian cherries. Sweet rose petals with a firm, satiny finish. Pure Washington Merlot. HELL YEAH! – Charles Smith
96.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Malbec
Tasting Notes: Delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromatics galore—cigar box, pencil lead, cedar and currants with super refined tannins and a long, fine finish. French? No. Chateau Smith? OUI! – Charles Smith
99.5% Syrah, .5% Primitivo
Tasting Notes: Everything you want in a syrah….smooth, firm, fresh & dark…super
dense purple with meaty dark fruit, Asian five spice & sweet tobacco. Intense yet
plush texture…it will KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF! – Charles Smith
K Vintners Label
Tasting Notes: As the day is long…a never ending finish of spices, fresh tobacco, cured meats, and stone. So smooth, so fine. – Charles Smith
Tasting Notes: Extremely concentrated, intense color. Notes of huckleberry, cedar, cigar and kirsch. Built like a brick shit-house; exuberant ripe fruit with grippy backbone and spice and a seamless finish. – Charles Smith
Tasting Notes: Violets, lavender, roasted meat, game, crushed stone, and a super long finish. – Charles Smith
Pra Soave Classico 2008
Florida has always been one of the biggest wine markets in the United States. And in Naples, we are in the height of that large market. We have plenty of excellent restaurants, with very high-quality and high-priced wine lists. But in today’s economy many of us can’t afford to enjoy these excellent wines at the higher price points that restaurants are charging. The restaurants have realized this, and many have begun offering (yet not actively marketing) a bring your own wine program.
Bringing your own bottle of wine can lower your restaurant bill while also allowing you to open the world of possibilities of the wines available to you. However, there is an etiquette to bringing your own wine, some of the most important aspects are highlighted below.
1. Restaurants will charge a corkage fee. Let’s face it, when you are at a restaurant you are paying for two things: food and service. Opening your bottle is a service so many restaurants will and should charge a corkage fee for bringing your own wine. Corkage fees can range anywhere from $5 to $25 per bottle.
2. Do not bring a wine on the restaurant’s list. This is just a plain, large insult. Call ahead or have your local wine shop call the restaurant to make sure that there is not crossover with the bottle you plan on bringing and anything on their list. Safe bets are small production wines, unique varietals or blends, and older vintages.
3. Call ahead. Not every restaurant in town allows you to bring in a bottle, make sure you call ahead and get the details on their policy, corkage fees, and potential crossover on their wine list. So go ahead, break out that 1997 Brunello or Albarino that you’ve been dying to drink, venture down to one of Naples’ fabulous restaurants and enjoy your new found freedom from the restaurant wine list.
Here’s a couple places we highly recommend and some ideas for wines to pair with their cuisine:
Blue Fish Sushi and Japanese Buffet Pine Ridge & Airport Pulling Roads (Bed, Bath & Beyond Plaza) $5 corkage fee (they also offer a fantastic $18 sushi buffet!) Suggested pairings: Elena Walch Gewurztraminer ($25), Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($17)
Miramare Ristorante Venetian Village $15 corkage fee Suggested pairings: William Fevre Chablis ($25), Benton Lane Pinot Noir ($23)