Wine Blog – Vina Alberdi Rioja Reserva

Hello Everyone,

The days are noticeably shorter and the nights are becoming long and cold.  For the last week or so, I have been driving to work and returning home in the dark without even working any extra hours.  Yes, winter is here!  All of these short days, long nights, and low temperatures have put me in the mood for a savory stew, laden with meat and root-vegetables, and served with a rich red wine such as Viña Alberdi Rioja Reserva, 2010, from La Rioja Alta.

La Rioja Alta is a highly-regarded winery which began production in 1890.  In her 1008-page compendium of wine knowledge, Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil listed this bodega as one of the region’s finest producers.

Viña Alberdi Riserva is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes grown during an exceptionally good vintage in Rioja.  It was aged in American oak barrels for two years; the first year in new barrels and the second in barrels which had an average age of three years.  This beauty is deep garnet in hue, with great clarity. The nose opens with dark cherry, red currant, plum, black pepper, some licorice, and a hint of vanilla.  These aromas carry through to the pallet, with good tannic structure and tart acidity.  The body is medium-to-full, with a fairly long finish, while the alcohol content is a mere 13.5% by volume.

At $19.99 per bottle, Viña Alberdi Rioja Reserva is a great wine.  It is reasonable enough that it can be consumed over a good week-night dinner, yet it is high enough in quality that even the pickiest wine drinkers will have difficulty finding fault with it.  James Suckling gave it a score of 95 points and referred to it as being “very finely crafted.”  Likewise, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave this wine a score of 91 points and called it “delicious.”  You can find out for yourself as we currently have a good supply on-hand at O’Bryan’s Wine and Spirits.

I sincerely hope that all of you have a blessed holiday season.

Frank

 

 

 

Anne Amie Winemaker’s Selection Pinot Noir—A Thanksgiving Go-To!

Image result for anne amie winemaker's selection pinot noir

Hello All,

Halloween has already gone by.  The days are noticeably shorter, the leaves are reaching their full fall glory, and there is a chill in the air.  These all mean one thing to me–Thanksgiving is approaching!  In fact, as I write this, we are only twenty-one days away from that fantastic feast when we give thanks for the bounty of the previous year.

The traditional dinner, as we all know, consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, cranberry relish and pumpkin pie.  The most common question I hear from customers at this time of year is, “Which wine do I serve with it?”  Indeed, the array of flavors that one experiences nearly simultaneously in a meal of this size and diversity can make it difficult to find a wine that doesn’t clash with something on the plate.

If you prefer red wine, as do I, one go-to for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir.  Obviously, there are many Burgundies out there which will work, but, in keeping with the origin of this holiday, I like to serve an American alternative.  If it is very good, affordable, and produced from 100% estate-grown fruit on a property which is environmentally conscious, I like it even better.  If the winery philosophy is such that the wine comes from efforts in the vineyards rather than from excessive manipulation during production, I’m batting a thousand!

Folks, I’m here to tell you that I have found a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir which meets the criteria–Anne Amie Winemaker’s Selection Pinot Noir, 2015.  This translucent, ruby-colored wine has a perfumed, floral nose of violets and sweet cherries.  It is light to medium in body, with good acidity, flavors of cherry and red berry, and a hint of black pepper on the finish.  An added bonus is the moderate alcohol content of 13.4%.

The good availability and reasonable price of $25.99 per bottle should make this an easy choice for your Thanksgiving meal.  Please stop by O’Bryan’s and grab a couple of bottles.  I think you will like it!

I will close by wishing all of you a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Frank

 

Edge Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 by Signorello—It’s Simply Incredible!

Image result for edge napa valley cabernet sauvignon 2013

Signorello Estate is a small-production, artisan-quality Napa Valley winery whose estate wines I recently discovered and love. However, with prices in excess of $100 per bottle and very limited availability, it is unlikely that there will be an abundance of it residing in my cellar!

That said, there is a second line of their wines characterized by affordable prices and stunning quality. My favorite is Edge Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2013 vintage consists of fruit sourced from top Napa Valley vineyards. This blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 3% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot was aged for sixteen months in French oak barrels, of which 35% were new.

The nose of this inky wine is redolent of Napa Valley fruit, with dark cherry, black currant, and chocolate notes. On the palate are silky tannins with some balanced acidity and a long finish. The oak is pleasantly present, but not overpowering.

It is not often that I get this excited about sub-twenty-five dollar wine from Napa Valley because the quality at this price point is often subpar. This is not the case with Edge. This is a vibrant, luxuriant wine that screams Napa style—all for $22.99 per bottle!
Due to the recent, tragic fires in Northern California, there is a temporary shortage of Edge in the city. We have the remaining three cases that were in stock at the distributor. My advice is to get it while you can. I certainly will!
Cheers!
Frank

Bedrock Wine Company:  History in a Bottle

Although Bedrock Wine Company is a relative newcomer to the California wine industry in that Morgan Twain-Peterson founded it in 2007, it is rooted about as deeply in the history of California winemaking as any current winery can be.  Morgan’s father is Joel Peterson, who founded Ravenswood Winery, and Morgan literally grew up in the business.  He was five years old in 1986 when he made his first wine, Vino Bambino Pinot Noir.  Through his father, Morgan also came to know many of the legendary figures in the history of California wine such as Joe Swan and the Teldeschi family.

In addition, Morgan and his business partner, Chris Cottrell, utilize sustainable vineyard management to produce grapes in some of the oldest and most significant vineyards in the state.  Morgan’s family owns Bedrock Vineyard, which General Sherman and General Hooker first planted in 1854, and he and Chris also make wine with fruit from Evangelho Vineyard (Contra Costa County, 1890’s), Pagani Ranch (Sonoma Valley, 1880’s), Dolinsek Ranch (Russian River Valley, 1910), and Nervo Ranch (Geyserville, 1896) to name just a few.

Additionally, Bedrock produces its wine in a very traditional and ethical manner.  In a quote from their website, Morgan and Chris “embrace uninoculated fermentations, native malolactic, the use of whole clusters in fermentation, minimal handling, rarely or never fine, avoid additions of things common in California like water and tartaric acid, and would rather use no oak than cheap oak.”

While Bedrock is best known for its small lot, single vineyard varietals and field blends, Morgan and Chris also produce wine under a second label, The Whole Shebang!  This non-vintage wine still receives the same care and ethical production as their first-label wines and its base comes from the Bedrock Vineyard.  The Tenth Cuvee Red is a rich blend of 55% Zinfandel with Carignane, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache, Syrah, Barbera, and a small mix of white varietals.  In fact, at $13.99 per bottle, it represents one of the best values in a red wine in our store.

In short, when you drink wine from Bedrock Wine Company, you are drinking history in a bottle.  Stop by O’Bryan’s Wines & Spirits this week and try it yourself!

Cheers,
Frank

A Summer Cooler

Image result for new age white wine with lime

Hello Everyone,

Since it is the middle of summer, I want to tell you about New Age White, an incredibly refreshing blend of 90% Torrontés and 10% Sauvignon Blanc.  It is a product of Valentin Bianchi from Mendoza, Argentina.

This light, yellow-green wine begins with floral, peach, and tropical aromas which deliver a slightly sweet taste of the same on the palate.  The acidity and light effervescence only enhance the already enjoyable nature of the wine.  New Age White is low in alcohol, as well, at 9% ABV.  Best of all, its retail price of $8.99 per bottle makes it an undeniable bargain!

While New Age White is great on its own, it also lends itself well to numerous wine-cooleresque cocktails.  The one that I like most is the New Age Tincho.  Add ice and one bottle of New Age White to a pitcher, along with six sliced limes.  Stir the mixture and refrigerate it for about ten minutes in order to allow the lime juice to blend with the wine.  What you will have is a delicious, low-alcohol drink that is reminiscent of a margarita.  My advice is to buy several bottles at once in order to save yourself the extra trip back to O’Bryan’s after you take the first sip!

I hope that your summer is going well.  Adiós for now!Frank

 

Dog Day Dreaming

Hello All,

Dog Days refer to the hottest portion of summer, between July 3rd and August 11th.  According to the Farmers’ Almanac, it is during this time that the Sun occupies the same area of the sky as Sirius, the Dog Star, which is the brightest star visible from Earth.  With the Dog Days on our doorsteps, I think it wise to introduce you to a wonderful, hot-weather, white wine from south-eastern France—Chignin, by Charles Gonnet!

Chignin is a cru, a vineyard or group of vineyards known for producing quality wine, named after the village of Chignin in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region of the Vin de Savoie appellation.  This is a mountainous, cool-climate wine region, located near the borders of Switzerland and Italy.

The wine is made entirely from Jacquere grapes, a local variety.  After the hand-harvested grapes are pressed, the juice is placed in tanks for six months to ferment and age on the lees.  The result is a dry, light-to-medium bodied, pale yellow wine. The nose has aromas of melon, peach, and pear.  These flavors, along with hints of minerality, are moderately intense on the palate and carry through to a long finish. There is a crisp, refreshing acidity to this wine that is balanced by a sense of creaminess.  The alcohol content is just 11.5% by volume.

We have the 2016 vintage in stock for $16.99 per bottle. It will pair well with fish, oysters, chicken, and sharp cheeses.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Cheers!

Frank
Charles Gonnet Chignin, Savoie, France

 

Hello All,

Welcome to my second blog post.  With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, summer is finally here!  The problem is that while I like to sit poolside in the evening and enjoy a glass or two of wine, most reds are simply too heavy and too high in alcohol to enjoy during our hot, humid summers in Cincinnati.  However, I have the solution; the ideal red wine for summer.  The fact that it is obscure, low in alcohol, affordable, and absolutely tasty only enhances its allure.

About this time last year, Gayle and I attended a wineCRAFT tasting of small-production wines.  When we arrived and picked-up the wine tasting information, our representative told us about a wine that was new to the Cincinnati market but was already a hit among wine people in New York; Domaine Nicolas Gonin, Persan Mondeuse 2013. I was unfamiliar with the region, IGP Isere-Balmes Dauphinoises, and I had never heard of either Persan or Mondeuse grapes.  When he said that this was a red wine, I practically ran to get a taste of it.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed!

Isere is a tiny wine region located in eastern France, with Savoie to the north and the Rhone Valley to the south.  This region once had more vineyard acreage than Beaujolais, but it was devastated by phylloxera during the late 1800’s.  In addition, the growers in Isere failed to form an AOC after World War II.  As a result, the viticulture there is tiny in comparison to what it once was; with about half of the grapes being grown for private production.

Persan and Mondeuse, also known as Mondeuse noire, are both rare grapes.  At one point, Persan was even thought to be extinct.  As of 2012, there were only about twenty-two acres of it in production.  It is a grape that is indigenous to Isere.  Mondeuse is also native to Isere and to the neighboring Savoie.  Although its popularity is on the rise, there were there were only about 500 acres in France planted to this variety in 2000.  Both of these grapes are susceptible to powdery mildew and can be difficult to bring to full ripeness.  Mondeuse is drought-sensitive, as well.

Persan produces wine that is dark red, with acidity and tannic structure.  It has flavors of red fruit, pomegranate, pepper, and spice; with floral overtones.  Wine made from Mondeuse is typically purple, also with acidity and tannic structure.  It has flavors of red fruit, plums, pepper, and spice; with some earthy, gamey overtones.  Both of these grapes are known for their tartness.

Domaine Nicolas Gonin, Persan Mondeuse 2013 is an organic, biodynamic blend of 40% Persan and 60% Mondeuse grapes. It is fermented with native yeasts.  Fermentation and aging are done in enamel vats and the wine is bottled without filtration.

This wine is deep garnet in color.  The nose has an initial earthy aroma, which dissipates rather quickly, and lingering notes of plum and pepper.  It opens with flavors of pomegranate, dried cranberry, plum and pepper.  These flavors are carried through the mid-palate, with a medium to long finish of pepper and cranberry.  This is a dry wine with good acidity and some tannic structure.  As I indicated earlier, it has a remarkably low alcohol content of only 10%.

Persan Mondeuse retails for $19.99 per bottle; limited availability.  It is truly a pleasure to be able to offer a unique wine of this quality for less than twenty dollars.

Cheers!
Frank

Travaglini Gattinara

 

Hello All,

Steve and Teresa O’Bryan were kind enough to give me some space on their website to write about one of my favorite subjects.  You guessed it; wine!  So, welcome to my first blog post.  I want to begin this endeavor by telling you about Travaglini Gattinara, an old favorite of mine.

I first learned about Gattinara a number of years ago from a Matt Kramer article in Wine Spectator about lesser-known wines that represent great value for the money spent.  Kramer referred to it as “a poor man’s Barolo” and wrote at length about the tremendous quality of this wine.   I kept my eyes open and eventually found the asymmetrical, oddly-shaped, squarish bottle of Travaglini on a wine-store shelf. At somewhere in the neighborhood of $20.00 per bottle, as I remember, it was a bit of a splurge for me back in those days; but at the first sip of that stuff, I lost any buyers’ remorse that I might have had!  Matt Kramer was right!  It was a fantastic, unique bottle of wine that rocked my world!  Although I don’t see it often, I usually buy a bottle when I do because every time I have it I am reminded of the wonder I experienced upon tasting it for the first time.

Gattinara is a tiny DOCG in Piedmont located about ninety miles north of Langhe, the region in which Barolo and Barbaresco are produced.  As with Barolo and Barbaresco, Gattinara is made from Nebbiolo grapes (known locally as Spanna), but the region is higher in elevation and subject to greater variation in temperature.  Also unlike Langhe, the soil is volcanic which makes it more mineral-rich.  The end result of these factors is a wine that has the acidity and tannic structure seen in Barolo and Barbaresco, but with somewhat less complexity and power.  Make no mistake, Gattinara is still a complex wine with great structure, but there is a sense of elegance and finesse to it that I really enjoy.

Another benefit is that Gattinara wines do not command the same high prices as Barolo and Barbaresco.  While it is true that you can find some entry-level Barolo and Barbaresco for thirty or thirty-five dollars per bottle, you are not getting entry-level wine with a similarly-priced Gattinara.  It is also more obscure, as there are only about 250 acres of vineyards as opposed to about 4200 acres combined that produce Barolo and Barbaresco.

Travaglini, Gattinara’s largest producer, is also one of the most respected for the production of quality wine.  It is family-owned.  The former winemaker, Giancarlo Travaglini, made their wine for forty-five years.  The current winemaker is his son-in-law, Massimo Collauto.

Last week, my wife and I attended an industry tasting hosted by Palm Bay International at the Dayton Country Club.  On a poster, I noticed the distinctive bottle-shape of Gattinara and pointed it out to Gayle.  We both wondered if it was one of the wines being presented.  While I was still tasting at the French table, Gayle went to the one for Italian wines.  Within about a minute, she was back with a glass of Gattinara and a look of excitement on her face.  It was as we remembered it—excellent!  When I brought the paperwork back to Daniel, I remarked that they were featuring one of my favorite wines, Travaglini Gattinara.  He immediately took me over to the Italian section and pointed to a new arrival—Travaglini Gattinara!  What is it that they say about great minds thinking alike!?  Of course, I bought a bottle of it!

The 2011 estate-bottled DOCG, which is available at O’Bryan’s for $34.99, is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes.  It is aged for one year in French oak barriques, with an additional eighteen months in Slovenian oak, and six months in bottle.

Upon pouring this wine, I noticed its lovely, deep, brick-red color.  I was impressed by its great clarity.  A quick swirl brought out highly defined legs on the side of my glass, followed by a tart cherry nose with a hint of leather.  My first sip confirmed the nose, and I picked-up additional hints of raspberry, as well, with spice on the mid-palate.  The finish was medium to long.  This wine really developed over a couple of hours, so I recommend a long decant prior to drinking if you really want to see it shine.

This is a very food-friendly wine.  It will pair well with grilled meats, robust stews, and hard cheeses.  If you enjoy balance, acidity and good tannic structure in the wine that you drink, then I highly recommend that you buy a bottle of Travaglini Gattinara on your next visit to O’Bryan’s.  My guess is that, like me, you’ll be back for more.

Cheers!
Frank

 

We’ve all sipped water while watching someone drink whole jugs of wine

Part 2

With age, just like wine, shall it all become more refined?  I wish the answer to that question were true, although I think it’s the polar opposite.  The majority of wine industry experts, tend to agree that only a few percent of wine actually does improve with age.  Does that mean that the bottle of Molly Dooker the Boxer Shiraz will only be good for a few short years?  Not necessarily, although the wine may only hold up and taste like it should for only a few years.  Many wines may stay in a ‘limbo” state, where they can hold its flavor for a few years, but deteriorate soon after.  All too often when someone sees a wine that is older than 5-6 years, an assumption of quality is given to it without a second thought.  There are many variables that can help a wine age.  A balance of acidity, tannins, sugars, oak, all need to come together in harmony.  Even with a “great palate,” I feel as if that balance can be subjective.  If someone isn’t familiar with how a 1921 Chateau d Y’quem should taste, but is familiar with how highly regarded it is – I’m certain that the wine will be deemed amazing without a fair assessment.  Our predecessors who were the experts in wine, were taught by their predecessors of what a fine aged wine should taste like.  Our palates are directly influenced by our neighbors, our friends, and or people in the wine trade. We must qualify and validate what we are tasting and how we perceive that.  Essentially, we build up a wall to new flavors, new styles of wine-making, and the way that wine SHOULD taste.  With age, just like wine, everything changes – the question is it for better, or for worse?

I feel as the years go by, people’s palates become regimented – I am 100% guilty of that.  Is that a bad thing?  I can’t say that it is, although I believe that it keeps you from experiencing what the world has to offer.  The curmudgeons tongue, dominates free thinking.  Remember being young, and hating Brussels sprouts?    I do, but now I crave them almost every day!  With experience, shouldn’t we just know exactly what we do and don’t like?  Yes, but we also close our minds.  I’ve been in the mindset of drinking incredibly high acidic whites, and the funkiest/earthiest reds the old world can muster.  I drink those styles of wine almost strictly.  When I come across a wine label that I’ve seen and or tasted hundreds of times, more likely than not I will completely disregard that wine and deem it unworthy.  I feel like we all do that to some extent.  We find a stride with what we like, and go with it.  Our palates dull with time, just like our sense of smell.  We all have or had a Grandma who wears a perfume that you can smell 20 blocks down the road.  Is it because she is trying to cover up the smell of something, or is it because she can barely smell her own perfume and sprays a judicious amount to know that she is actually wearing something?

Let us get rid of our pre-conceived notions on how a wine should taste.  Let us appreciate it for what it is.  If you drink only reds, order a glass of white wine at your local restaurant.  If you only drink acidic whites, earthy French reds (cough cough) drink a fruit bomb!   Revolt!  With age, just like a wine, will we die in a bitter taste?  I certainly hope not, but only a few of us will change for the better

Cheers,

Daniel Schmerr, Staff Sommelier

We’ve all sipped water while watching someone drink whole jugs of wine

Too many times I have witnessed people drinking their epitome of greatness in a glass, while turning their noses up at the people next to them who are drinking something that isn’t deemed worthy.   The dissonance of palates, to me, can be overwhelming.  Without trying to over-complicate why someone enjoys a particular thing, I think the real question should be why do we care?  It’s obviously not for our own enjoyment.  Does it boost our egos? Do we justify our own palates by qualifying those of others?

There is quite a bit of muscle-flexing, or palate-flexing, in the world of alcohol.  When someone is passionate about alcohol, name/knowledge/cellar-dropping is, more often than not, the focal point at the start of the conversation.  In our own world, our palate is KING.  We won’t let the peasants bring mutton (Miller Lite, Two Buck Chuck) to the table.  We will only indulge in the foie gras (Lafite, SQN, DRC, Caymus, Cantillon)   In reality, most of us can’t afford to drink luxury beers and wines as often as we’d like; although we tend to describe our flavor profiles akin to those producers.  We try to find a middle-ground, a sense of comfort, for our palates as well as for our wallets.

Likewise, there is a certain level of class to which we set our palates.  Many people will snub a person drinking white zinfandel in a wine glass filled with ice cubes, while they drink a residual sugar-driven Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley out of their stemless wine glasses.  Who has the better palate?  Is it the sommelier drinking a ’47 Cheval Blanc?  Is it the country club golfer drinking Silver Oak?  Is it the birthday girl, who just turned 21, drinking a glass of Beringer White Zinfandel?  My answer, while not genius, is none of these.  All have a starting point in wine and have advanced to where their own palates are at this given moment.  Two Buck Chuck, Mateus, Lancers, Apothic Red, and thousands of other wines of that “caliber” have passed the lips of most of us at one point or another in our lives.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking them, as there is nothing wrong with disliking them!

My suggestion is to avoid sticking your nose in the air at people drinking wines that don’t please you.  Rather, it is more useful to stick it in the glass of wine you’re drinking and enjoy it!

Part 1

Cheers,

Daniel Schmerr